Abortion and Unjust War

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I have sometimes ridiculed the Left’s commitment to abortion as its sole core principle by referring to the “sacrament of abortion.” It stands at the center of a belief which holds that the Imperial Autonomous Self is the highest good and that, therefore, all (including the very life of another human being) must be sacrificed in order to maintain that cultic devotion. To be sure, many on the Left, feeling the shame of what they continue to doggedly support, like to muffle their commitment with euphemism, calling it “choice” instead of “child killing.” And there is much talk of “safe, legal, and rare” child killing to soften the brutal truth of what the cult worships. But at the end of the day, what is being fought for is child killing.

And not all who worship in the cult feel bad about it. Indeed, some on the Left have borne out this religious fanaticism with appalling zeal, declaring, in the words of Katherine Ragsdale, dean of the Episcopal Divinity School in Cambridge, Massachusetts, that “abortion is a blessing” and abortionists do “holy work” — or, in the words of pro-abortion zealot Florynce Kennedy, “If men could get pregnant, abortion would be a sacrament.” (What? You think I come up with this stuff myself?)

However, the sacralization of abortion can cut both ways. To illustrate, let me refer to a letter I received recently asking a rather telling question:

I was wondering if you might have a really great article on the difference between an unjust war and how it compares to legalized abortion — to draw the great difference between an unjust war and the legality of abortion.

My strong suspicion is that this reader, like so many others with whom I have corresponded, was hoping for a reply along these lines:

Abortion is intrinsically immoral and can never be justified under any circumstances (that’s what “intrinsically immoral” means). “Just war,” on the other hand, is a matter of prudential judgment. So we know for certain that abortion is evil, but “prudential judgment” means you can disagree with the Magisterium if you like. Therefore, you must oppose abortion, but may support “unjust” wars.

The problem is, this argument tends to rely on two very dubious ideas.

The first of these dubious ideas is that “prudential judgment” means, “Let’s play ‘Simon Peter Says’.” In other words, unless the pope issues a direct dogmatic decree telling us what to think and do (Simon Peter says, “This particular war is unjust”), we can feel free to ignore even the strongest warnings of the Magisterium or common sense by saying, “It’s just a prudential judgment, so I don’t have to listen.” According to this theory, we could simply blow off things like this in the ramp-up to the Iraq War:

  • “No to war!” — Pope John Paul II
  • “[The] concept of a ‘preventive war’ does not appear in the Catechism of the Catholic Church.” — Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger, in direct response to a U.S. bid to get the Vatican on board with our preemptive war
  • “To permit preemptive or preventive uses of military force to overthrow threatening or hostile regimes would create deeply troubling moral and legal precedents. Based on the facts that are known, it is difficult to justify resort to war against Iraq.” — the USCCB

. . . and plunge into war anyway, explaining that the pope hasn’t dogmatically defined our course of action as wrong, so we can do as we please.

 

The problem is, this sort of Minimum Daily Adult Requirement approach to magisterial guidance is essentially an open invitation to live as a pagan, since almost none of the Church’s moral guidance is dogmatic (including, by the way, the matter of how to apply Humanae Vitae on a daily basis). Yet somehow folks on the Right have figured out that artificial contraception is wrong, even when Simon Peter has not played “Simon Peter Says” to dogmatically legislate each and every particular of how we should behave in our bedrooms. Indeed, Rome has never dogmatically defined that suction aspiration constitutes abortion, yet conservative Catholics generally have no trouble figuring that out.

However, when it comes to the matter of just war, there is suddenly overwhelming bafflement (and righteous defiance) on much of the Right concerning common-sense application of magisterial guidance, just as there is overwhelming bafflement (and righteous defiance) on the Left concerning the pelvic issues. Do waterboarding, cold cells, and stress positions that cause suffocation and death constitute a violation of ius in bello (i.e., whether the war is fought justly)? It’s so confusing! We’ll never know what torture is till the Magisterium spells it all out for us, despite the fact that we have hanged Japanese for such crimes and our own military field manuals have given us clear guidelines for avoiding prisoner abuse (hint: Treat prisoners humanely, and you won’t accidently abuse them). Likewise, in the matter of ius ad bellum (i.e., whether we had just cause for war), there is utter mystification despite the fact that the overwhelming judgment of the Magisterium was that the Iraq war did not meet the ius ad bellum criteria.

To resolve this mystery of how the Magisterium could have gotten it so wrong when the United States was so right, we still hear that the guidance the Magisterium gave was, like so much else, not infallible — unlike the teaching on abortion. But so what? The urgent warning to avoid the war was as highly reasonable a judgment as suggesting that telling children to play in traffic, while not formally defined by the Church as gravely immoral, is still inadvisable and likely to get a lot of innocent people killed — and it was, by the way, perfectly accurate. And so, most recently, a bishop at the recent synod of Middle Eastern bishops attempted once again to make the daring suggestion to Catholics that a war whose chief fruit has been the destruction of the Iraqi Church is a war that needs to be seriously reconsidered:

Since the year 2003, Christians are the victims of a killing situation, which has provoked a great emigration from Iraq. Even if there are no definite statistics, however the indicators underline that half the Christians have abandoned Iraq and that without a doubt there are only about 400,000 Christians left of the 800,000 that lived there. The invasion of Iraq by America and its allies brought to Iraq in general, and especially to its Christians, destruction and ruin on all levels. Churches were blown up, bishops and priests and lay persons were massacred, many were the victims of aggression. Doctors and businessmen were kidnapped, others were threatened, storage places and homes were pillaged . . . .

Perhaps the acuity with which Christianity was targeted has been lightened during the last two years, but there still is the fear of the unknown, insecurity and instability, as well as the continuation of emigration, which always makes this question arise: what is the future of Christian existence in this country should this situation continue, more so because the civil authorities are so weak. The tears are continuous between the different religious and political composing elements, as well as external influence by external powers, especially neighboring countries.

Seven years have passed and Christianity is still bleeding. Where is the world conscience? All the world remains a spectator before what is happening in Iraq, especially with regards to Christians.

We want to sound the alarm. We ask the question of the great powers: is it true what is said that there is a plan to empty the Middle East of Christians and that Iraq is one of the victims?

The question was rendered all the more poignant by the fact that this bishop would see slaughter visit his cathedral soon after this statement. Of course, the response of those who support the war that unleashed all this horror against the Iraqi Church is “More war!” Indeed, many still hold the mysterious belief that the purpose of the Iraq war was in the best interests of the people of Iraq or the Church there, despite the fact that, as the good bishop points out, the Church has done nothing but hemorrhage to death throughout our long and meandering campaign of nation-building. The truth is, there is nothing in the record to indicate that the fate of the Iraqi Church is of much interest to the United States, which was the bishop’s main point.

 

So am I saying that there are no prudential judgments and that we should just knuckle under to everything the bishops say on any matter? No. I am saying, along with the Holy Catholic Church, that the normative posture of a disciple of Jesus Christ is docility to the God-appointed teachers of Holy Church, not, “Prove that I should believe or do this, and then maybe I’ll think about it, if I feel like it.” Really:

Mindful of Christ’s words to his apostles: “He who hears you, hears me”, the faithful receive with docility the teachings and directives that their pastors give them in different forms. (Catechism 87)

This means, among other things, that the point of just war teaching is not that the Church has to prove that a war is unjust, but that the State has to prove that it is just. And, as the magisterial authorities above make abundantly clear, that case was not made by a long shot when it comes to our adventure in Iraq.

Some people will exclaim, “If that’s so, then the Church is making it extremely difficult to go to war!”

Yes. That’s the idea. The point of just war doctrine is not, “If you can jigger your rationales for war into something vaguely resembling a fit for just war criteria, then feel free to go nuts!” It is, precisely, to make launching a war very, very difficult. That’s because war involves killing human beings, and you don’t want to do that unless you are very sure it is justified. The reason you don’t want to do that is because an unjust war is known by another, less popular name: Mass murder. And mass murder, whether it be of 122,000 innocent Iraqi civilians or 1.4 million innocent children, is gravely and intrinsically immoral.

In fact, the Church is so stringent on this point that she has long believed that the deliberate murder of even one innocent human being is sufficient to damn the murderer to the everlasting fires of Hell. It has been a touchy subject with her ever since a practical politician said to his bleeding-heart peacenik colleagues concerning a certain innocent civilian who was interfering with the grand geopolitical strategizing of the day: “You know nothing at all; you do not understand that it is expedient for you that one man should die for the people, and that the whole nation should not perish” (Jn 11:49-50).

 

This leads to the second dubious idea that is gaining currency among some Catholics — an idea that is a curious mirror inversion of the blasphemous sacralization of abortion by the Left: namely, the notion advocated by an increasing number of conservative Catholics that opposition to abortion taketh away the sins of the world.

So, for instance, the logic animating my reader’s question was this: if one opposes abortion, one is absolved of any other moral choices one may make, including supporting an unjust war that kills thousands of innocent people. That is, after all, what was both suggested and even assumed in speaking of the “great difference between an unjust war and the legality of abortion.” Indeed, what is ultimately being suggested is that opposition to abortion, not the blood of the Lamb, washes away the sin of launching an unjust war, as well as virtually every other sin you could name.

So I am regularly informed that, because 1.4 million children are aborted each year, approval of the use of torture and the commission of war crimes is not only no sin, but somehow a patriotic virtue. Does the Church oppose the death penalty? No moral problem supporting it at all, so long as you oppose abortion. Do I pretty much ignore and even ridicule the Church’s teaching on a score of issues? No big deal, I oppose abortion! I wish I could find even the ghost of a thread of logic in such arguments, but in fact there is none at all. It is a completely illogical approach to Church teaching. But it appears to rest, in each case, on a soteriological theory that has absolutely nothing to do with Catholic faith, except this heretical formulation: “The Church opposes abortion. Therefore, to oppose abortion is to fulfill all that the Church requires of us to be saved.”

But, in fact, opposition to abortion is no more salvific than the vaunted commitment of the Left to “social justice.” The liberal, Pelosi-style Catholic imagines that increasing the minimum wage or funding a soup kitchen cleanses one of the sin of supporting abortion. A growing number of conservative Catholics imagines, like my reader, that opposing abortion cleanses one of the sin of supporting an unjust war or sundry other evils.

Now, one does not necessarily expect a Leftist Catholic who views the faith largely as a means of social reform to care about orthodox soteriology (essentially summed up in the words, “Behold the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world”). But one does expect a self-described “faithful orthodox Catholic” to understand that Jesus Christ, not adherence to a particular ideological fragment of Catholic moral teaching, takes away the sin of the world.

To recap: Neither commitment to social justice nor opposition to abortion takes away sins. And, in fact, we can and do commit other sins that are as grave as abortion. So, to return to my reader’s request for a relative scale of values between support for abortion and unjust war, here’s the cold hard fact: if a war is truly unjust, it means that one who supports it is supporting murder. And if one is supporting murder, it makes no “great difference” to God whether the one being murdered is a pre-born baby or an adult Iraqi civilian.

It falls to us as rational creatures to decide the justice of a given war (and many other crucial moral issues) with the tools and guidance provided by the Church. But if we are choosing evil (whether via unjust war, fornication, or white-collar crime), we cannot suppose that “Hey! I oppose abortion!” will substitute for repentance and confession. Human life is sacred, and fighting to protect it is good. But no good work, not even that one, takes away our sins, nor gives us a license to commit other sins. Our call is to be disciples of Jesus Christ, and no substitute religion — whether the religion of “commitment to social justice” or the religion of “being pro-life” — can substitute for the fullness of Catholic faith in Him. Support the right to life with might and main (Jesus Christ commands it, after all). But don’t imagine for one moment that obeying Him in that one thing is atonement for disobeying Him in other areas.

Mark P. Shea

By

Mark P. Shea is the author of Mary, Mother of the Son and other works. He is a senior editor at Catholic Exchange and a columnist for Crisis Magazine. Visit his blog at www.markshea.blogspot.com.

  • Eric Giunta

    Once again, Shea fails to distinguish principle from application. The Church’s teaching on the immorality of contraception IS dogmatic: the Church has taught this infallibly through her ordinary and universal magisterium. Catholics must subscribe to this tenet of moral theology.

    Likewise, Catholics must subscribe to the Church’s doctrine on what constitutes a just war. But that does NOT mean we have to accede to the judgment of the church’s pastors judgment on whether any particular war is just, not unless the Pope and/or the bishops choose to make their prudential judgments binding on the faithful — WHICH THEY DIDN’T. This is why ONLY ONE bishop on the entire planet forbade his subjects (American members of the Romanian Catholic Eastern Church) to fight in the Iraq War, under pain of mortal sin. No other bishop did – not the Pope for the universal church, and not the US Bishops (with the exception of one) for their sons or daughters – they recognized that a good Catholic could disagree with them on the justice of the Iraq War, and fight in it and support it without sin. It’s also why NOT A SINGLE bishop has denied Communion, or even THREATENED to deny Communion, to supporters of the Iraq War — indeed, they haven’t even asked such supporters to VOLUNTARILY abstain from receiving the Sacrament!

    For all their mindless pontificating on matters for which they have no special expertise, even the bishops see for themselves what Mark Shea can’t or don’t – that there really is a difference between immutable moral truth and prudential application of those truths. Ratzinger recognized this in 2004 (and the Holy See before and since), as have ALL the bishops of the world save one.

    At the end of the day, what Shea really means to say is: “Yeah, these are questions of prudential judgment, but I Mark Shea (after all, I have my own blog!) am the one who gets to determine for all Catholics, or at least for Catholic generally (after all, I write books!) whether supporters of the Iraq War support the effort in good faith and out of a sincere effort to follow traditional just war doctrine! Rome has spoken, but I have! Causa finita est!”

    Shea needs to stay out of politics, and focus on what he does best: apologetics. He’s an embarrassment to the InsideCatholic forum otherwise.

  • LV

    Mr. Shea,

    As you would have us weigh the opposition of the Pope and the Vatican as an argument from authority that the Iraq invasion did not meet the criteria for just war, it is probably worth pointing out that the Pope and the Vatican also opposed, in terms nearly as strident, the first Iraq war, conducted in response to the invasion of Kuwait.

    Perhaps there is a case to be made in the earlier conflict, as there is in the latter, that the decision to attack Iraq did not meet the requirements of a just war. (I am not defending the conduct of the war in either case.) If there is, though, I am not aware of it, nor am I aware of any such case having been made before Desert Storm.

    As such, my inclination at the time was (and remains today) to regard these statements less as an application of the Church’s just war teaching and more as an aversion to any and all armed conflict, regardless of whether the conflict in question is a just war or not.

  • Marthe L

    I see that Eric Giunta and LV, the first two commenters on this article, were in a real hurry to CONFIRM Mr. Shea’s point of view. What scares me in all this, is that a Republican Senator visiting my country last week has been claiming that it was now becoming necessary to “neutralize” Iran.
    To add to Mr. Shea’s argument, I clearly remember one particular article in Inside Catholic and/or it’s previous version, Crisis, saying, for example, that in order to retain the Catholic vote, Mr.Bush should remain firm about the war in Iraq… My impression then became that some people really need a very very clear black and white issue to accept advice (or teaching) from the Pope, and the only one such black and white issue was abortion, therefore everything else was a matter of “prudential” judgement, particularly if it involved the US perceived security, that could not possibly be guaranteed by enything else than striking first. Some very scary information that came out in the mid 70’s because of some law or regulation that required the opening of secret files after a number of decades actually revealed that my country’s kindly neighbour to the South was planning such a preventive strike because someone was convinced that Canada was harbouring secret airplaine bases in a number of lakes far away in the north of the country. You remember: that old argument that there is no proof yet but “we know they are there”…(Give me a week or so and I will retrieve the book containing the actual reference from my extensive personal library.)
    Warm congratulations to Mr. Shea for expressing what I hope some other Catholics than myself and him have been considering to be a serious reason to worry. Will the military and weapons industry ever stop before they start World War III (which might turn into a nuclear war this time – after all, in spite of all their fear mongering, the US are the only country to have actually used those weapons)? I think that some people have already made enough money on the dead bodies of war victims, they should now retire and enjoy the fruit of their labour!

  • Brian English

    “despite the fact that we have hanged Japanese for such crimes and our own military field manuals have given us clear guidelines for avoiding prisoner abuse (hint: Treat prisoners humanely, and you won’t accidently abuse them).”

    (1) Other than an unsupported statement by Democratic Party hack Paul Begala, do you have any support for your claim that we hanged Japanese for waterboarding?

    (2) Do you deny that spies and saboteurs have historically been treated much differently than common soldiers captured on the battlefield?

  • Donald R. McClarey

    Begala got his facts wrong. Yukio Asano, a Japanese interrogator, got 15 years in 1947 for far more than waterboarding:

    There

  • Donald R. McClarey

    The above comment was by Donald R. McClarey.

  • tom in Ohio

    Mark regularly does this in response to his readers. He ends placing himself in the middle between two crowds of mistaken Catholics, the left and the right, whom he prodeeds to castigate and pretend to teach.

    He’s right about waterboarding, which affected the lives of a few hundred people for a few years (and wrong as i was, as far as I know, no one died from waterboarding, adn if someone did the intention is not to kill). OK, I get it. But what is that in comparsion to the millions of childen slaughtered every year in western democracies? Really.

    And then he stoops to using exaggerated quotes out of context to make his point. How does that help me understand?

    Lastly, regarding Iraq and prudential judgment, I would like to see him take it up with Deal Hudson or George Weigel. When Weigel explains it to me, with less invective than Mark is used to using, I follow. I am convinced. And he disagrees with Mark about prudential judgment.

  • RK

    Haha! You’ve rendered the Catholic fundamentalist argument that abortion is the only sin a completely absurd syllogism. It’s time for Catholics to stop taking their marching orders from the neoconservatives who currently control the GOP. These wars/travesties in the the Middle east are not about our security anymore (not sure if they ever were), they are about the military-industrial complex and serve agaendas that do not have the best interests of the United States in mind.

  • Republican

    Thank you, Mr. Shea.

    I think you are very much on target, in so many ways that I cannot even decide which to enumerate first.

    Amen, amen, amen.

  • Brian English

    ” and plunge into war anyway, explaining that the pope hasn’t dogmatically defined our course of action as wrong, so we can do as we please.”

    Slogans that you could hear chanted at a Code Pink rally and the USCCB’s substanceless statement are not legitimate efforts to apply Just War criteria to the War in Iraq. Why were the principles not satisfied and what was the alternative to fighting the War? If you were president what would you have done?

    And sorry Mark, but Cardinal Ratzinger stated in both his 2004 letter to the US Bishops and a Zenit interview in 2003 that Catholics could disagree with the Pope’s position on the Iraq War and not be in conflict with the Church. He did not claim that such Catholics were “acting like Cafeteria Catholics,” an accusation you have had the audacity to hurl at men like Fr. Neuhaus, Michael Novak, and George Weigel.

  • Tony Wawrzynski

    The alternative was not to launch an aggressive war against a country that had never attacked us, had no intention of or capacity for doing so, and was not involved in the 9/11 atrocity.

  • Rich Browner

    It is nice to see some clear writing here about the horror and sinful reality of unjust war. And almost every war IS unjust. Neither Iraq nor Afghanistan make the cut. There are far too many Christians who are war cheerleaders. Far too many.

    I have to say that I am impressed and will continue to read IC, as they at least do not censure arguments like these from Mr. Shea. I was beginning to dread coming here because all I ever saw was GOP defense and talking points.

    Great article. GREAT.

  • Gary Schuberg

    We in the pro-life ranks have been battling against the false dichotomies of Cardinal Bernardin’s cover for the left that have for decades haunted pro-lifers, from the halls of Congress to the committees of pro-life and Church groups.decades. Now that same false logic is infecting us from the right in justifying the Republican party’s wars of choice. Whether it is out of some siege mentality that it would be unpatriotic to oppose a major effort of the “pro-life” Republican party (I have been accused of being a traitor to our pro-life cause for claiming these “preventative” wars are unjust in Catholic terms) or that whatever America does in foreign policy is beyond reproach and opposition to these invasions equals Un-American activity, I don’t know. But the lengths to which many social conservatives go to justify these adventures abroad seeking monsters to destroy strikes me as forgetting our Faith to justify American exceptionalism and, indeed, the very roots of our nation’s founding.

    When the drums of war began to beat Joe Sobran, Pat Buchanan and many other fine Catholic writers strongly argued that invading Iraq was not only unnecessary and unjust but would actually hurt American interests. It is becoming clear to more and more that these voices were prophetic.

    Mark’s style is bombastic but then so was John the Baptist’s. Thanks to Inside Catholic for printing what strikes me as a contrary view to this site on so hot and pressing a topic.

  • Brian English

    “The alternative was not to launch an aggressive war against a country that had never attacked us, had no intention of or capacity for doing so, and was not involved in the 9/11 atrocity.”

    So how would you have dealt with Saddam?

  • Brian English

    “It is nice to see some clear writing here about the horror and sinful reality of unjust war. And almost every war IS unjust. Neither Iraq nor Afghanistan make the cut. There are far too many Christians who are war cheerleaders. Far too many.”

    So how should we have dealt with Afghanistan after 9/11?

    And not agreeing with you and Shea on Iraq makes people war cheerleaders?

  • Brian English

    “Now that same false logic is infecting us from the right in justifying the Republican party’s wars of choice.”

    What false logic would that be?

    And you say wars of choice. So Afghanistan was a war of choice?

    “When the drums of war began to beat Joe Sobran, Pat Buchanan and many other fine Catholic writers strongly argued that invading Iraq was not only unnecessary and unjust but would actually hurt American interests. It is becoming clear to more and more that these voices were prophetic.”

    And far better Catholic writers than Jospeh Sobran and Pat Buchanan argued that invading Iraq was necessary and just. That is why it is called a prudential judgment. Reasonable people can disagree about the issue.

    And how have America’s interests been hurt? You think it was in America’s interests to allow Saddam to remain in power? Once the sanctions regime collapsed, do you really believe that Saddam would have sat by and watched his arch-enemies in Iran acquire nuclear weapons?

  • Ted

    You sort of had me at hello…. It’s generally a great article. However, you fail to distinguish the fact that the Christians being killed are being targeted by Islamic extremists. One could plausibly conclude from your piece that these Christian’s blood is on the hands of those you mistakenly or otherwise supported this war. While I agree with your piece generally, I won’t agree to that. The blood of those murdered Christians is on the hands of the Islamist murderers. As for Saddam’s Iraq not having the capacity to attack us, that is a hindsight statement. The intelligence everyone had prior to said the opposite.

    Was the Iraq War just or unjust? You could make an argument either way. But I have never been ordered to nor have I ever knowingly targeted civilians in any way.

  • Matthew

    I do not believe that you answered the reader’s question. You dodged it.

    Suppose Mr. Bush actually invaded a pacific Iraq for oil and to impress his daddy, and directly ordered the torture and murder of innocent civilians. This is clearly an unjust war. If I support that aggression is that a more grievous sin than if I support a constitutionally guaranteed and government funded right for mothers to kill innocent children in the womb by the millions? That’s a pretty close call, but I guess I would feel more guilty about abortion because those poor children are completely defenseless and significant conversion of an entire society is the only remedy after tremendous loss of life. At least the Iraqis would be able to defend themselves individually or lift up their voices and seek the aid of a vast anti-American coalition. The war would end eventually, without the need for a complete societal conversion, making my continued support of butchery abroad much less enabling agent than my continued support of butchery in the womb.

    Thankfully, I support neither of the positions above. I do believe that both are evil. Nevertheless, abortion is the foundational issue. If a society reaches a comfortable peace with the fact that unwanted innocent children are killed in the womb, than it is, in my opinion, more likely to reach a comfortable peace with the secret torture, secret killing, or outright war against human beings who are deemed, rightly or wrongly, to be enemies outside of society.

    I must also respond to one glaring omission from your analysis is the stated justification for the invasion of Iraq. Intent has a tremendous bearing on the gravity of sin. The attacks of Sept 11 changed the national security equation. The new priority was to prevent the intersection of international terror organizations and weapons of mass destruction. Whether a war to prevent that intersection is just, is a novel question.

    Now lets take a look at the victim of the alleged unjust war. The regime of Saddam Hussein was monstrous. His sons were no better. They promoted terror actively. It was feared that the regime was close to acquiring WMD’s. It turned out not to be the case. Nonetheless, that was the honest belief. The Hussein regime did not cooperate with inspectors in violation of treaty. Indeed, Iraq was not even truly a fully sovereign nation at the time of the invasion. The US patrolled no-fly zones to prevent the government from slaughtering innocent civilians. Prior to the invasion the United States and others engaged in laborious diplomacy giving the Hussein regime ample opportunities to cooperate and disarm. Sadly, we ended up with a war, and much post-war violence. But let us not delude ourselves that there was peace in Iraq before the 2003 invasion. Given the recent historical examples of North Korea and Cuba, I am not convinced that the terror-regime would be over now, but for that war. The Hussein regime is gone. A foreign policy goal was achieved, but at a tragic cost. Nevertheless, I do not believe that there was a scenario by which the Hussein regime ended without much innocent suffering and death.

    Most importantly, I refuse to engage in any relativistic analysis which purports to equate Iraqi society under Hussein, to unborn Americans in the womb. They are not comparable.

    I supported the Iraq War. I believe it was necessary. Failure to act when presented the opportunity would have been a sin of omission to perpetuate an evil regime. I have listened to and understand the arguments against war. I am grateful for the debate and the opposition. It would truly bother me if others did not succumb to the reservations which I feel.

    I do not believe that opposition to abortion absolves me of any sins. Yet, I find it very difficult to accept the moral authority of the Left on any issue when abortion rights are so foundational to the Left worldview. Life is the issue that puts me on the Right. I understand that my position on the Iraq War undermines my moral authority with those on the Left. Yes, I believe in a strong national defense. I believe strongly in the prosecution of the War on Terror. Yet, I would withdraw every US troop home, and close every foreign military base, and assume an entirely defensive posture, in exchange for an explicit fully guaranteed right to life for all of the unborn. How’s that for a “single issue” Catholic?

  • Ender

    Although one has to step carefully through Mr. Shea’s article to avoid the straw men, as liberally strewn through his arguments as bodies on a medieval battlefield, I think his position is this: the war was unjust, Catholics should have known this because the Magisterium said it was, therefore the laity had a moral obligation to oppose the war.

    I think his own article, however, provides a rebuttal to this serious claim, namely the statement that an unjust war is known by another, less popular name: Mass murder. If support of and participation in an unjust war really is support of and participation in mass murder then millions of Catholics have sinned mortally by their support and involvement. How could the Church have allowed this to happen when a solution was so readily available?

    In the first response to Mr. Shea’s article, Eric Giunta referred to a comment by a Romanian Catholic bishop that explicitly stated what Mr. Shea appears to believe the Magisterium inferred: Therefore I, by the grace of God and the favor of the Apostolic See Bishop of the Eparchy of St. George in Canton, must declare to you, my people, for the sake of your salvation as well as my own, that any direct participation and support of this war against the people of Iraq is objectively grave evil, a matter of mortal sin. (John Michael Botean, Bishop of the Romanian Catholic Diocese of St. George in Canton, Ohio, Mar. 7, 2003)

    If Mr. Shea and Bishop Botean are right then I (and tens of millions of others) have mortally sinned. To make matters worse, the Pope, my bishop, and the entire Magisterium are complicit in those sins by failing to clarify this point as Bishop Botean did. It’s either that or There may be a legitimate diversity of opinion even among Catholics about waging war… (Cardinal Ratzinger, 2004)

  • Aaron

    Mr. Shea substitutes fiery rhetoric, judgmentalism, and vitriol for an actual explication of the Church’s teaching and its implication for the reader’s question. In short,
    1) Abortion is intrinsically immoral. It can never be justified by recourse to any moral principle taught by the Catholic Church.
    2) War, on the other hand, can be waged justly or unjustly. While the Church articulates principles by which I war can be determined just or unjust, she does not bind consciences to magisterial judgments on the justice of particular conflicts.
    3) This is because the Church does not teach authoritatively on matters of fact or future contingents. The bishops of the world have, generally, no supernatural knowledge of the conditions in Cameroon to know whether Ibn-Bambam has tanks pointed at Abu-Babaloo’s village. Abu-Babaloo, on the other hand, has fallible, though in this case, just-as-good-if-not-better natural knowledge of the tanks ready to destroy his people and their homes. It thus falls to him, and not even the bishop of Khartoum, to decide whether, after honest and duly diligent comparison of the known facts with Catholic principle (including a responsible *speculation* as to the likely outcome of fighting), he is justified in diverting the platoon of tanks with force.
    4) One must assent to this distinction taught by the Magisterium.
    5) One can assent to this distinction and still believe the 2003 invasion of Iraq was unjust.
    6) One might even believe that, based upon the “facts” as “known” by Americans in 2003, there was no possible justification for war. This still ought to be articulated by explicit recourse to “facts” and principle, rather than acerbically declaring any opponents of your prudential judgment to be nefariously motivated jackasses.

  • Brian English

    If the American invasion in 2003 was the primary cause of the decline in the Iraqi Church, what is the explanation for the decline in Christian populations in other countries in the Middle East?

    And are you claiming that American leaders should have foreseen that the decline in the Iraqi Church would take place after the invasion? What evidence should have convinced them of that?

  • Brian English

    “To recap: Neither commitment to social justice nor opposition to abortion takes away sins. And, in fact, we can and do commit other sins that are as grave as abortion. So, to return to my reader’s request for a relative scale of values between support for abortion and unjust war, here’s the cold hard fact: if a war is truly unjust, it means that one who supports it is supporting murder. And if one is supporting murder, it makes no “great difference” to God whether the one being murdered is a pre-born baby or an adult Iraqi civilian.”

    So Catholics who supported the War in Iraq are responsible for all of the dead Iraqi civilians, even though the vast majority were killed by AQI or sectarian thugs? I really don’t think that is the Church’s position.

  • Ender

    One has to step carefully through Mr. Shea’s article to avoid the straw men, which festoon his arguments like Christmas tree ornaments, but I think his position is this: the Iraq war was unjust, Catholics should have known this because the Magisterium said as much, therefore those who disregarded the Magisterium and supported the war gravely sinned in doing so.

    I think his own statements, however, disprove this conclusion, specifically this assertion: if a war is truly unjust, it means that one who supports it is supporting murder. In an earlier response a reference was made to a comment by a Romanian Catholic bishop who explicitly stated what Mr. Shea appears to believe the Magisterium implied: Therefore I … must declare to you, my people, for the sake of your salvation as well as my own, that any direct participation and support of this war against the people of Iraq is objectively grave evil, a matter of mortal sin. (John Michael Botean, Bishop of the Romanian Catholic Diocese of St. George in Canton, Ohio, Mar. 7, 2003)

    Now, if Mr. Shea and Bishop Botean are right then I (and tens of millions of others) have mortally sinned by either supporting or participating in the Iraq war. Worse, the Pope, my own bishop, and the entire Magisterium is implicated in those sins by failing to do what bishop Botean did and clarify that opposing the war was necessary “for the sake of [my] salvation.”

    Well, it’s either that or: There may be a legitimate diversity of opinion even among Catholics about waging war … (Cardinal Ratzinger, 2004)

  • Brian English

    “It falls to us as rational creatures to decide the justice of a given war (and many other crucial moral issues) with the tools and guidance provided by the Church. But if we are choosing evil (whether via unjust war, fornication, or white-collar crime), we cannot suppose that “Hey! I oppose abortion!” will substitute for repentance and confession.”

    But your entire theory is based upon an assumption that the War in Iraq was unjust, and anyone who disagrees with you on that supported an unjust war. Serious Catholic thinkers believed the War was just, and the Church did not present an argument explaining why they were wrong.

  • Cathy

    Mark, you may argue that entering into the war with Iraq was unjust, but it seems to me you fail in arguing that the “left” was in total opposition in regards to entering into the war in the first place. We are in Iraq, having deposed Hussein. Pray tell us, Mr. Shea, are you arguing that to simply abandon the country and people of Iraq now, is a just response to your argument that the war was unjust? I pray that our US troops respond both honorably and mercifully with every civilian they come in contact with in Iraq, and I pray that every citizen of the US be truly honored by their service.

    As for abortion, one can concede in good conscience that the just response is to end legalized abortion and restore the stolen dignity of the preborn human person both domestically and abroad. I have absolutely no problem with our country completely withdrawing from abortion.

  • Mark Shea

    This is not about whether there can be legitimate diversity of opinion concerning just war. This is about a new theory of soteriology which holds that, so long as you are opposed to abortion, you can support a war you know to be unjust–in short, that there is, as my reader suggested, a “great difference” between supporting abortion and supporting unjust war. Opposition to abortion does not, in fact, take away the sins of the world. If you support a war you know to be unjust, saying “I’m prolife!” doesn’t atone for that. Jesus takes away sins, not our political ideology.

  • Mark Shea

    But your entire theory is based upon an assumption that the War in Iraq was unjust, and anyone who disagrees with you on that supported an unjust war.

    Note the trick, gentle reader, of asserting that somebody who makes a moral judgment is somehow assuming magisterial authority, when in fact, all I am doing is *agreeing* with magisterial authority in its assessment of the justice of the war in Iraq. By this trick, what Mr. English means to do is assert that opposition to the war is an exercise of egoism. Very clever! And yet, of course, the fact remains that the bishops and two popes basically couldn’t square it with just war teaching and I am simply pointing out that fact.

    Serious Catholic thinkers believed the War was just, and the Church did not present an argument explaining why they were wrong. – Brian English

    Serious Catholic thinkers believe opposition to Humanae Vitae was just, and the Church did not present an argument explaining why they were wrong. – Hans Kung/Richard McBrien/The Editorial Staff of the National Catholic Reporter

  • Mark Shea

    I think a more prudent question is, “Do we have any intention of ever ending this war.” Our Sec’y of Defense has already made it clear that, we are “not ever leaving” Afghanistan. http://www.google.com/search?s…fghanistan And our 50,000 troops in Iraq after the supposed end off combat make it clear that we are not leaving there either. We have an Empire to maintain. That’s why we also have thousands upon thousands of troops being maintained in such threats to American security as Germany, Japan and South Korea. Nobody asks why these countries, which are all prosperous and should take care of themselves, are instead sucking money from our depleted treasury to maintain our forces abroad. We’re trillions in debt and still we spend money on such folly.

  • Nate

    I certainly don’t want to be overconfident in my pop-psychological analysis, but I wonder how much of the support by otherwise faithful Catholics for the laissez-faire capitalist (and therefore) war-mongering Right is merely a matter of keeping one’s artificial ducks in a row, as it were. It seems intuitive that one would want to align oneself with a party platform as much as possible, and a bit of self-convincing can go a long way to make that happen.

    Certainly, the defense of our current interventionist foreign policy, complete with torture and the suspension of habeas corpus, wouldn’t be given by a faithful Catholic *independent* of their alliance with a platform that *also* sees abortion as bad, would they? But since the platform is artificially constructed that way (at least in the U.S. in the present day), faithful Catholics convince themselves ex post facto of the moral (nay, theological) nature of this economic-cum-foreign policy approach. It’s unfortunate, but explainable.

    I mean…if it were not for the case that America had such a platform in the present day, would there even BE Catholic neoconservatives? Would such folks feel the need to have to ‘Jesus Seminar’ the latest social encyclical otherwise? To support our foreign policy and suggest that JPII and B16 are wise old men, but just don’t *get it* when it comes to our military pursuits?

    I think that the most charitable approach to such folks is to give them this sort of psychological analysis. Otherwise, I end up saying the reverse: that they are first and foremost faithful to a certain nihilist economic system that logically results in lots o’ war, and that they ex post facto decide that abortion is bad, so as to keep the alignment in check.

    I *hope* that isn’t what’s going on…

    Either way, it’s pretty messed up.

  • Donald R. McClarey

    “3. Not all moral issues have the same moral weight as abortion and euthanasia. For example, if a Catholic were to be at odds with the Holy Father on the application of capital punishment or on the decision to wage war, he would not for that reason be considered unworthy to present himself to receive Holy Communion. While the Church exhorts civil authorities to seek peace, not war, and to exercise discretion and mercy in imposing punishment on criminals, it may still be permissible to take up arms to repel an aggressor or to have recourse to capital punishment. There may be a legitimate diversity of opinion even among Catholics about waging war and applying the death penalty, but not however with regard to abortion and euthanasia.”

    http://www.tldm.org/news7/Ratzinger.htm

    One would hope that letter from then Cardinal Ratzinger would put paid to the attempt to equate support for abortion and candidates who support abortion with disagreement on whether a war is just.

  • Brian English

    “By this trick, what Mr. English means to do is assert that opposition to the war is an exercise of egoism. Very clever! And yet, of course, the fact remains that the bishops and two popes basically couldn’t square it with just war teaching and I am simply pointing out that fact.”

    No, it is an exercise of egoism for you to claim that Catholics who supported the War in Iraq indisputably supported an unjust war, and are therefore morally responsible for the deaths of 122,000 Iraqi civilians.

    “Serious Catholic thinkers believe opposition to Humanae Vitae was just, and the Church did not present an argument explaining why they were wrong. – Hans Kung/Richard McBrien/The Editorial Staff of the National Catholic Reporter.”

    Additional proof that Shea believes if you did not agree with the Popes and the Bishops about Iraq, you are a dissenter (and he doesn’t care that Cardinal Ratzinger said otherwise).

  • Dan

    In the next month, two particular days are of note: December 2nd marks the 30 year anniversary of the death of 4 American women in El Salvador who were raped and killed by the American-supported client government. 3 were nuns, one was a lay missionary. On November 16th in 1989, the same right wing forces assassinated 6 Jesuits and 2 women in El Salvador. American intelligence and military involvement was intimately involved with Central American military activities. The Catholic right wing does not even acknowledge these deaths, but the Catholic left knew them when these folks were killed.

    This love of war and desperate need for “security” as the God of the right wing is nothing new.

  • Marthe L

    To Donald R. McClarey: I think that Cardinal Ratzinger meant by “to take up arms to repel an aggressor” was probably about a REAL agressor on our OWN territory. That is not the same thing as striking first, against a country that was not responsible for an aggression and for which it would have been very difficult anyway, just because it was thought that that country just MIGHT have the intention of acquiring some imagined “weapons of mass destruction”, while, at the same time, there appeared to be a real interest from some parties with heavy lobbying capacity in controlling that country’s natural resources, namely oil.

  • MarylandBill

    I think Mark might have stated the case a little too strongly, at least with some of his examples, but I think at root, there is a very important message here. Ultimately being a faithful and conservative catholic is not the same thing as being politically conservative in the United States — at least not so far as politically conservative is defined as Republican.

    I think a distinction between the war in Iraq and abortion must be made. While I also hold that the Iraq war (well at least the second Iraq war) does not meet the criteria of a Just War, the situations are not directly comparable. As others pointed out, abortion is a systematic and massive evil. It is therefore fair to prioritize that evil over other issues that should Catholics.

    Mark’s point however, and one I strongly agree with is not a question of prioritizing issues, it is the fact that some Catholics appear to embrace all policies of one party or the other based on the notion that this party addresses one particular aspect of Catholic teaching. As American Catholics, we can and should vote for candidates who will work to end abortion in the United States. That does not mean however that the Republicans should get a pass from Catholics on other issues simply because they are the “pro-life” party.

  • Mark Shea

    No, it is an exercise of egoism for you to claim that Catholics who supported the War in Iraq indisputably supported an unjust war, and are therefore morally responsible for the deaths of 122,000 Iraqi civilians.

    Or, at least, would be had I actually said that. In fact, of course, there are lots of people who will dispute that the war was unjust, which is why I would never say something as silly as you claim I say. I merely note that you will not find the last two Popes or the bishops among those who could rationalize their way to cheerleading for the war. And I think there are very sound reasons for that which Catholics would do well to heed the next time somebody pounds the war drum.

    But to return to my *main* point, when somebody asks “to draw the great difference between an unjust war and the legality of abortion” the Catholic position is that that there is no “great difference”. Both are forms of murder and opposition to the latter does not absolve one of support for the sin of the former. Jesus does that. The same Jesus who warns us that if we call him “Lord, Lord” and do not do as he says, he will say “I never knew you.” That is why a soteriology based entirely on opposition to abortion is not Catholic. We are called to obey him in all things, not try to use opposition to abortion as a bribe for getting absolved for cutting corners in the rest of the Church’s moral guidance.

  • Mark Shea

    This love of war and desperate need for “security” as the God of the right wing is nothing new.

    The Glass House of abortion loving Pelosi/Kerry Catholicism is hardly the Mission Control from which to launch such missiles or righteous indignation. The Left has long appealed to the theory that “Social Justice Taketh Away the Sin of Abortion”.

  • Carl

    First the second Shea

  • Melinda T

    Discussing the pros and cons of unjust versus just war and support of abortion is much like the discussion on Jimmy Aikin’s blog about the Fire fighters forced to attend a Gay pride Parade…the apologists for the support of unjust war are similar in tone to the apologists for the gay lifestyle..Start with an insult and go from there…Its disheartening to talk to a wall and its disheartening to the onlooker as well…I don’t know how Shea does it week after week but he does and blessings on him for trying…

  • Donald R. McClarey

    Considering Ms. Lepine that Cardinal Ratzinger wrote the letter to US bishops in 2004 well after the Iraq War was underway, and was specifically addressing the issue of denying communion to dissidents, I think your interpretation of the then Cardinal’s letter to be fanciful in the extreme. His mention of capital punishment was interesting since this is also an issue that Catholics on the Left in the US have also attempted to elevate to the same status as abortion. I would note that I do not consider Mark Shea to be a Catholic of the Left. Mark is sui generis.

  • Brian English

    “This love of war and desperate need for “security” as the God of the right wing is nothing new.”

    Right, because it is clear that if you support the War in Iraq you also support the raping and killing of nuns in El Salvador.

  • Carl

    Shea says, “are instead sucking money from our depleted treasury to maintain our forces abroad. We’re trillions in debt and still we spend money on such folly.”

    Federal and state budgets are made up mostly of social welfare programs. No problem spending here?

    As opposed to U.S. Governments are constitutionally mandated to protect us.

  • Brian English

    “Or, at least, would be had I actually said that. In fact, of course, there are lots of people who will dispute that the war was unjust, which is why I would never say something as silly as you claim I say.”

    Right Mark, you write these articles for the Catholics who believe Iraq was an unjust war, but supported it anyway. Those of us who thought the war was just, you have no problem with.

  • Brian English

    “One would hope that letter from then Cardinal Ratzinger would put paid to the attempt to equate support for abortion and candidates who support abortion with disagreement on whether a war is just.”

    One would hope in vain. This letter and an interview with the Cardinal on Zenit, where he states basically the same thing, have been cited in past discussions of this issue. Unfortunately, they have had no discernable impact on Mr. Shea’s campaign to cleanse the Church of us Iraq War supporting apostates.

  • Mark Shea

    As opposed to U.S. Governments are constitutionally mandated to protect us.

    And Germany, Japan, South Korea, Israel, Iraq, Afghanistan….

    I’m all for cutting lots of domestic spending too. I think balanced budgets are good things. In this, I differ from the Thing that Used to be Conservatism yet again.

  • Brian English

    on the atrocity in Baghdad that, shockingly, blames the actual killers:

    http://www.catholiceducation.org/articles/persecution/pch0263.htm

  • Mark Shea

    Those of us who thought the war was just, you have no problem with.

    On the contrary, I have plenty of problems with those who still, at this late date, manage to persuade themselves that the war in Iraq was just, when I think it manifestly was not. Why else would I write to persuade? I do not, however, presume to judge the culpability of those whose opinions I deem to be manifestly wrong. So I do not call them “apostate Catholics” (your words, not mine).

  • crazylikeknoxes

    I am still waiting for the “thank you” notes from Iraqi church letting us know how much they appreciate us protecting our interests at their expense. What ever do they teach in CCD over there?

  • Mark

    “This is about a new theory of soteriology which holds that, so long as you are opposed to abortion, you can support a war you know to be unjust” – Mark P. Shea

    I’ve never heard anyone make this claim — another victory for Shea the Straw Man Slayer!

    It’s obvious that the limp-wristed left is still stinging from last Tuesday and have chosen the predictable and pedestrian tactic that the best defense is a good offense.

    “It is nice to see some clear writing here about the horror and sinful reality of unjust war” – Rich Browner

    It’s also nice to see that the cafeteria is open again for the pro-homosexual crowd.

  • Brian English

    “So I do not call them “apostate Catholics” (your words, not mine).”

    So what do you call them? Are they Cafeteria Catholics? Or are they all just “acting like Cafeteria Catholics”, like Fr. Neuhaus, Novak and Weigel?

    Also, do you believe that those who concluded that Iraq was a just war are dissenters, fully capable of writing for the National Catholic Reporter?

  • Mark Shea

    If you actually understood what “legitimate diversity of opinion” meant, you would understand that it is possible to think that somebody is completely wrong about a prudential judgment, yet also think it possible that they are not necessarily culpable for being so. That is, in fact, my position particularly as regards people I have never met. In short, your are entitled to your own opinion, but not to your own facts. And the facts, as the bishops pointed out, are that it is difficult to square just war teaching with our launch of the war in Iraq. You doubtless have convinced yourself of the contrary, but you are, I am persuaded, wrong. Benedict was likewise persuaded of this, which is why he did not say, “Gosh, this is just my opinion and you are totally welcome to think the opposite, but preventative war is not in the Catechism. At least, that’s what I think. Which could be completely wrong because what do I know?” He stated the facts, while being aware that lots of people, for lots of reasons, might come to erroneously conclusions about that fact for all sort of reasons that could impinge on their culpability–which is why he left room for “legitimate diversity of opinion” without, in the slightest, pretending his opinion and that of the other bishops of the world was just flavoring in the great soup of Relativism. It is possible to be right even when one is *not* speaking from infallibility.

  • Aaron

    Mark, you need to clear up some fundamental points.

    1) There is a difference between supporting an unjust war and supporting abortion, and that difference has concrete consequences for a voter. If I believe a politician to have acted wrongly in authorizing a war, I OUGHT to count that as a serious moral mark against him, but I MAY NOT allow that to outweigh his opponent’s error on grave intrinsic evils. Hence the Ratzinger letter.

    2) There is a difference between the utterances of individuals who possess a magisterium in virtue of their office and actual magisterial pronouncements. Opinions aired in interviews by cardinals are not magisterial pronouncements, yet so much of the “magisterial opinion” cited against the Iraq war was no more than that. The USCCB, by the way, also possesses no magisterium. Bishops have magisteria, conferences do not.

    3) There is a reason neither the Ven. John Paul II nor Pope Benedict XVI made any magisterial pronouncement articulating the injustice of the recent Iraq war – they know that it does not belong to their magisterium to bind consciences on that particular decision.

    Moving back again from these particularities, the generality remains as true now as it did at the beginning of the discussion. You are mixing together two fundamentally different topics – on the one hand, the fundamental incommensurability of matters intrinsically evil versus those subject to prudential judgment, and on the other hand, those who would seek to exploit that distinction to cover a multitude of sins. Since it is possible that one could have honestly and without culpability concluded , first, that the war was justified, then, on the grounds of later evidence, that his judgment was mistaken, then thirdly, that continuation of the war is the proper means of justly cleaning up for the mistake of starting it (by securing order in the region), you really need to imagine another category than simply those who support any and every Mideast war at all costs.

  • CK

    It’s truly amazing that the liberality afforded by prudential judgment has been taken by American Catholics to be a license to engage in moral relativism. In the case of the Iraq War, prudential judgment would have to have taken in to consideration that the war would have on the common good, not just of U.S. interests and fears, but the good of all, including the Iraqi Shiites, Sunnis, and Melkites. As reckless dilettantes who could care less about the details of the folks over there (including their basic human needs: ie food, electricity, water, medicine), Americans have wholesale ignored what effect the Iraq War would have on the common good, which is an essential element to Just War. Failure to properly account for the common good is a failure to account for a just war and as such a lack of prudential reasoning. This failure of prudential reasoning was evident before the first shot was fired (see Weigel, Novak, & Sullivan).

    Instead, what we have sees from some American Catholics is a moral relativism, that takes a wait and see attitude to just war, to which a number of American Catholics now see Iraq as an unjust fight, simply b/c it’s not going so well (but if was going well, then they might still support it). And other hangers-on, who see all American wars as just wars. Few have the moral and intellectual courage to admit that the United States is not the Incarnation and the Immaculate Conception, but rather one of many nations throughout history that is more than capable of tragic folly, particularly in acts of war.

  • Paul

    “Does the Church oppose the death penalty? No moral problem supporting it at all, so long as you oppose abortion.”
    2267 Assuming that the guilty party’s identity and responsibility have been fully determined, the traditional teaching of the Church does not exclude recourse to the death penalty, if this is the only possible way of effectively defending human lives against the unjust aggressor.

    If, however, non-lethal means are sufficient to defend and protect people’s safety from the aggressor, authority will limit itself to such means, as these are more in keeping with the concrete conditions of the common good and are more in conformity to the dignity of the human person.

    Today, in fact, as a consequence of the possibilities which the state has for effectively preventing crime, by rendering one who has committed an offense incapable of doing harm – without definitely taking away from him the possibility of redeeming himself – the cases in which the execution of the offender is an absolute necessity “are very rare, if not practically non-existent.”

    One could, “prudentially”, argue even in the United States that execution of an offender who, for example, killed other prisoners or prison guards, or who directed, through intermediaries, murders outside of prison, would be necessary to protect the public.

  • Jack Benedict

    So I guess it’s better to kill poor Afghani and Pakistani civilians than to help feed poor Americans?

    “Federal and state budgets are made up mostly of social welfare programs. No problem spending here?
    As opposed to U.S. Governments are constitutionally mandated to protect us.”

    This is a political argument. Are you suggesting that Catholic moral philosophy should bow to the US Constitution. Would the Founders have supported all of our current foreign entanglements?

  • Brian English

    “If you actually understood what “legitimate diversity of opinion” meant, you would understand that it is possible to think that somebody is completely wrong about a prudential judgment, yet also think it possible that they are not necessarily culpable for being so.”

    That is quite a statement coming from you.

    “And the facts, as the bishops pointed out, are that it is difficult to square just war teaching with our launch of the war in Iraq.”

    What facts? I see substanceless generalities from the bishops, rising no higher than “War is bad.” And “difficult to square” is hardly a strong statement of a position.

    And you still haven’t answered my question, “What would you have done to deal with Saddam?”

    “”Gosh, this is just my opinion and you are totally welcome to think the opposite, but preventative war is not in the Catechism. At least, that’s what I think. Which could be completely wrong because what do I know?”

    It may not be expressly stated in the Catechism, but St. Pope Pius V would be very surprised to hear that preventative war does not comply with Just War doctrine.

    ” He stated the facts, while being aware that lots of people, for lots of reasons, might come to erroneously conclusions about that fact for all sort of reasons that could impinge on their culpability–which is why he left room for “legitimate diversity of opinion” without, in the slightest, pretending his opinion and that of the other bishops of the world was just flavoring in the great soup of Relativism.”

    He stated his opinion, and allowed that reasonable people might disagree with him. You are basically saying that he just made allowance that those with sub-moron level IQs might not be fully responsible for concluding the war was just, but anyone else who disagreed with him was a relativist. I don’t read him that way.

    ” It is possible to be right even when one is *not* speaking from infallibility.”

    And it is also possible to be wrong.

  • Pammie

    Very well done! I’m really not clever enough to argue theology with any one, but it’s wonderful to read something that makes such sense to me. The other thing that comes to mind when I read comments approving of the current Iraqi war is – Do any supporters of this war really think that it makes much difference to the innocent who are killed what ideology is responsible?

    And isn’t it ironic that Iraqui Christians have been more likely to be targeted by terrorists on our watch than on the evil Saddam Hussein’s? “Better them than us,” I’ve heard my hardliner friends say. Now I understand better the correlation between that sentiment and those expressed by my prolife friends when they say to those who passionately defend abortion. “Of course you can be for abortion because it never happened to you.”

  • Brian English

    ” In the case of the Iraq War, prudential judgment would have to have taken in to consideration that the war would have on the common good, not just of U.S. interests and fears, but the good of all, including the Iraqi Shiites, Sunnis, and Melkites.”

    I notice you left out the Kurds. And the Shiites really loved being ruled by Saddam, especially the 250,000 who were murdered by him after the First Gulf War.

    And those mass graves found in Iraq? Obviously phony, created by Dick Cheney and his minions. Yes, life was sweet under Saddam and his two psychotic sons. The US bears a heavy burden of shame for bringing that Golden Age to an end.

  • Mark Shea

    Paul:

    The Church does not call the death penalty intrinsically immoral. It recognizes that under very rare circumstances–indeed, vanishingly rare in the first world–one can justify using it. But for all *practical purposes* that means that the Church opposes the use of the death penalty. That’s why the bishops have long spearheaded the Catholic Campaign to End the Use of the Death Penalty. http://www.usccb.org/deathpenalty/ I think it’s safe to say that when the bishops are calling for an end to the death penalty, the Church opposes the death penalty. However, since the Pope has not played “Simon Peter says” on the matter, death penalty maximalists will continue playing this silly game, just as Aaron will continue to imagine that since the Pope did not “bind our conscience” on a matter of clear common sense which saw almost complete unanimity from the Magisterium, this means we can continue to frolic in the playground of relativism.

  • Gary The Alligator

    He annoys all the right people.

  • Marthe L

    A few weeks ago, I was listening to a radio interwiewer (on Radio Canada, a Sunday program in French entitled Dimanche magazine) talking with Iraquis who had moved to, I think, Syria since the beginning of the war. More than one said that the situation in Irak is now worse than under Saddam, since in everyday life in many towns the two (or three) different groups of Moslems in the country had previously managed to live in relative peace. One woman in particular, whose husband had been from a different religious group than she was, and had been murdered, said that before the war things were better for her family.

    Thus, I wonder if it was really justified for the US to “deal with Saddam”. Could it be that using war to bring the US type of “democracy” to another country which was not ready for such a change was not a reasonable way to act in he first place? Oh, and I have been led to believe, by a number of respected Canadian journalists, that other matters, such as oil, might have played a more important role…

  • Mark Shea

    So what do you call them?

    Catholic who are wrong about the justice of the war in Iraq, of course.

    Also, do you believe that those who concluded that Iraq was a just war are dissenters, fully capable of writing for the National Catholic Reporter?

    You are seriously asking me to pass judgment on several million people? Boy you are really desperate to score points, aren’t you?

    My response, in case you didn’t pick up on this, was directed at you, not at several million people since it was you, not several million people who opted to use the rhetorical tricks of McBrien, Kung and the National Catholic Reporter to demand that the Magisterium of the Church demonstrate their right to apply the Tradition to your satisfaction, Brian. Me: I don’t see a big problem with the way the Magisterium interpreted and applied the Tradition to US claims that war in Iraq was just. In short, I think they made a very good call and were only borne out as right in the event. You are still fighting a rear-guard attempt, at this late date, to say they were wrong against all the blandishments of common sense. And now you are relying Chittistereseque rhetoric to pull it off. Good luck with that.

  • Matt

    “All those who live by the sword will perish by the sword.”

  • RK

    Brian English is against killing an unborn baby unless that baby happens to be Iraqi and his/her mother happens to be killed by an American “smart” bomb. Dead Iraqi babies are merely collateral damage to Brian.

  • Brian English

    “You are seriously asking me to pass judgment on several million people? Boy you are really desperate to score points, aren’t you? My response, in case you didn’t pick up on this, was directed at you, not at several million people since it was you, not several million people who opted to use the rhetorical tricks of McBrien, Kung and the National Catholic Reporter to demand that the Magisterium of the Church demonstrate their right to apply the Tradition to your satisfaction,”

    So are those several million Catholics who supported the War off the hook, or are they still in trouble? And where is this analysis of the Just War tradition that you keep claiming the bishops engaged in? Conclusory statements are not an analysis.

    “Me: I don’t see a big problem with the way the Magisterium interpreted and applied the Tradition to US claims that war in Iraq was just. In short, I think they made a very good call and were only borne out as right in the event. You are still fighting a rear-guard attempt, at this late date, to say they were wrong against all the blandishments of common sense. And now you are relying Chittistereseque rhetoric to pull it off. Good luck with that.”

    So you actually believe that you judge whether the decision to go to war is a just one by looking back with hindsight? Good luck with that.

    And still you refuse to answer what would you have done instead of invading. I think part of the problem here is, the two popes and the bishops never answered the question either.

  • Brian English

    “And isn’t it ironic that Iraqui Christians have been more likely to be targeted by terrorists on our watch than on the evil Saddam Hussein’s?”

    Yes, Saddam was much more inclusive in the people he chose to murder. Say what you want about the guy, but he showed a real sensitivity to diversity issues.

  • Admin

    Alright folks, it’s getting a little hot in here, so let’s try to cool it down a bit. These debates can get out of hand, so it’s particularly important to focus on the points rather than personalities.

    Thanks to all in advance,

    The Management

  • Pammie

    Mr. English: “Yes, Saddam was much more inclusive in the people he chose to murder. Say what you want about the guy, but he showed a real sensitivity to diversity issues”

    Isn’t it fun to be snarky when one lives far away from the blood, bombs and tears one religiously believes to be advantageous for other people to endure? But it’s neither helpful, reflective of my comment, or remotely amusing.

  • Mark Shea

    So you actually believe that you judge whether the decision to go to war is a just one by looking back with hindsight?

    No. I actually believe the bishop, who were not speaking with hindsight, but foresight, were right. Nice try at putting words in my mouth.

    Meanwhile, you’re getting mighty far afield from the actual subject of this article, which appears not to interest you at all. Accordingly, Brian, I will end this pointless correspondence in the hope that readers who wish to discuss the article and not engage in your diversions will actually discuss the article and the central point, which is the novel theory of soteriology that holds “opposition to abortion taketh away the sins of the world”.

  • David Ambuul

    If our president would simply back out of Afganistan and all wars of foreign interest, we would begin to break off the shackles of international interest owed to the World Bank. And as Americans we pay the interest on Federal Reserve notes, which are an extension of World Banking interests. Islam has its rights, like the right to not be forced to join international bodies of banking. Why should they be forced? It is against their book. And I don’t think many Americans or Afganistan citizens like that our children are dying in wars.

  • Joshua Chamberlain

    Why don’t you just admit that you (like the members of the current curia) are pacifists, and there is NO war that would meet your dainty standards of what is just.

  • David Ambuul

    I’m not blaming President Obama that we are in the middle east; for that I blame the Bush family…but why won’t Obama now take a different course from Bush as he promised he would? And why did the Bush family put us soooo deep into the middle east anyway? Do we still need to be there?

  • Mark Shea

    Why don’t you just admit that you (like the members of the current curia) are pacifists, and there is NO war that would meet your dainty standards of what is just.

    Now *that’s* the sort of contempt for inconvenient Church teaching that has served the Cafeteria Right so well since March 03!

    As it happens, neither I nor, if memory serves, the bishops had strong objections to our retaliation against the Taliban or the planners of 9/11 they hosted and enabled in Afghanistan. The war met ius ad bello criteria pretty well. However, as the Bush Administration quickly changed course from “Kill Bin Laden and his lieutenants for what they did to us on 9/11″ and became “Invade Iraq for extremely dubious reasons and never ever leave” while morphing into “We don’t even care about Bin Laden any more” in Afghanistan and instead became a pointless game of “Prop up a failed narco-state for no discernible reason except may the trillion dollars of lithium we found there” and likewise turned into a pledge of everlasting occupation, I’m afraid the rationale for Americans dying there has been fatally compromised.

    Some may call not wishing to see our troops butchered for no clear reason “delicate”. However, people who pay attention to Catholic tradition call it “paying attention to Just war teaching.”

    Such big big men with their big big laptops, so bold in sending somebody else to die for them. And so courageous in spitting on shepherds who differ with what they pontificate about from the comfort of a cubicle.

  • Mark Shea

    I’m not blaming President Obama that we are in the middle east

    Why not? He’s president of the United States. He made noises about drawing down our troops, but his Secy of Defense let the cat out of the bag: We are never leaving. You should bloody well blame him for that. While you are at it, blame him for doing something at even Bush, at his most contemptuous for law, never did: granting himself the power to murder anybody he feel like, citizen or no, without benefit of arrest, trial, evidence or conviction. http://www.salon.com/news/opin…ssinations

    There’s a reason Obama has squelched the possibility of investing war crimes. When the Executive gains powers in one Administration, his successor will damne well not relinquish them. If you seriously think Obama meant to right the wrongs of his predecessor, I have a bridge to sell you. He made some cosmetic changes. But the deep structural damage is still there.

  • Carl

    SERE waterboard training has never been officially banned. The Military acronym for Survival, Evasion, Resistance and Escape. Bush used this knowledge to justify waterboarding of a handful of known terrorists to reveal and stop at least the LA terrorist plot. And the Army field manual doesn

  • David Ambuul

    I asked why we are still in Afghanistan; Obama did not put us there initially. He put us back there possibly indefinitely, which is certainly unjust. And the extension of the patriot act into the right to killing citizens and non-citizens only proves how unjust the patriot act is through a reductio ad absurdam. So you are correct and I stand corrected. Through Obama, presently, we are in Afghanistan against the will of most of the citizens of the world. I’d like to see a realclearpolitics on that stat! I bet over 90% of the world is against this war -which is not to say numbers should dictate right and wrong.

  • Lauren

    But I’ll ask it anyway, since I read through the comments and didn’t really see this addressed. It’s an honest question, with no sarcasm behind it, so please don’t read it that way.
    If we have one party that supports what happened in Iraq, and another party that supports abortion, how is one to vote?
    Perhaps the person who originally posed the question that Mark Shea based the article on was asking the question honestly for this very reason.

  • Jason

    The real tragedy and moral outrage of this article isn’t the equating abortion and the unjust war (which is a major flaw with this article). It is the lack of politicians of any stripe that are vocally pro-life, so we that are pro-life are forced to forgive anything in hopes of getting someone who will end the holocaust of abortion. It would be nice to have any choice between two pro-life candidates but we don’t.

    So instead we have wind bags making distinctions that can not be considered until we finally end the horror that has been with us for 37 years, which by the way has killed more people than the unjust war or wars.

    Its nice to see Catholics trying to live there faith but please don’t try to help the pro-life cause Mark its not working.

  • austin

    The best part of Mark Shea’s writing are the intelligent comments that follow his articles. His criticism that Americans have troops all over the world is a good point. But then, he has to assume that the reason is “empire” as if the United States is getting anything back from Korea, instead of putting our troops in constant danger. Could his perspective have its roots in Manicheanism? (America= evil; those who criticize America=good.) Interestingly, Mark’s opinions echo the view of politics that some of my Protestant fundamentalists have–Jesus is coming soon; America is totally depraved, so don’t vote!

  • Carl

    “If we have one party that supports what happened in Iraq, and another party that supports abortion, how is one to vote?”

    Congress gave almost unanimous consent, Clinton threatened and said we had to remove Saddam; the U.N. had at least twelve resolutions against Saddam.

    Huffing and puffing is pointless if we never intend to blow his house down.

    Again, clearly, ONE PARTY HAS ABORTION as a party plank.

  • Lauren

    I suppose I was asking the question to Mark Shea.

  • Brian English

    “Brian English is against killing an unborn baby unless that baby happens to be Iraqi and his/her mother happens to be killed by an American “smart” bomb. Dead Iraqi babies are merely collateral damage to Brian.”

    Right RK, because if you support the War in Iraq, it means you actually want Iraqi babies to be killed, and you also want nuns to be raped and killed in El Salvador.

    By the way RK, other than the 2010 Henry Hyde Award winner, have you come up with the names of any other GOP Pro-Lifers who are actually phonies, and don’t really care about pro-life issues?

  • Brian English

    “Meanwhile, you’re getting mighty far afield from the actual subject of this article, which appears not to interest you at all.”

    Well, since as Lauren indicates above, your main point is most likely based upon a misinterpretation of the reader’s question, I do find the article is kind of pointless.

    “Accordingly, Brian, I will end this pointless correspondence in the hope that readers who wish to discuss the article and not engage in your diversions will actually discuss the article and the central point, which is the novel theory of soteriology that holds “opposition to abortion taketh away the sins of the world”.

    Right, your BIG discovery. Why at the Respect for Life Meeting I was at last night, that was a major topic of conversation: how awesome it was that since we were anti-abortion, we could do anything we wanted and God wouldn’t care.

    While you are waiting for someone to engage you on this novel theory, perhaps you could: (1) track down the exhaustive analysis the USCCB did applying just war principles to the War in Iraq; and(2) figure out an answer to what you would have done to deal with Saddam if you were president.

  • Brian English

    I should have posted this earlier, but over at the Ratzinger Fan Club site there is a section on Just War and the War in Iraq.

    Be warned though — they apparently believe that a “legitimate diversity of opinion” means that reasonable people, viewing the same evidence, could reach different conclusions, as opposed to the interpretation that it means that one side is clearly right, while the other’s erroneous conclusion is excused due to mental defect or emotional disorder.

    http://www.ratzingerfanclub.com/justwar/

  • Brian English

    “The best part of Mark Shea’s writing are the intelligent comments that follow his articles. His criticism that Americans have troops all over the world is a good point. But then, he has to assume that the reason is “empire” as if the United States is getting anything back from Korea, instead of putting our troops in constant danger.”

    We really do not get the whole “colonial exploitation” thing.

  • RK

    Right RK, because if you support the War in Iraq, it means you actually want Iraqi babies to be killed, and you also want nuns to be raped and killed in El Salvador.

    Hi Brian, I think we’ve finally gotten to the crux of your problem: You don’t understand intentionality in the Thomistic sense where consequences are part of intent when we talk about rational beings (if you claimed that the grand designers of our unilateral war games weren’t rational I might be tempted to agree with you). It seems you’re trying to play a lawyerly game of claiming that since the intent to kill babies in Iraq was never explicit it nullifies moral culpability. Nice try, but no cigar. By that rationale an abortionist could say his intent was never to kill the baby but to improve the quality of life for the mother.

  • Aaron

    Mark doesn’t like theological distinctions. They get in the way of emotion and obscurantism. It’s easier to claim that I am a supporter of the Iraq war (false) akin to a death penalty maximalist (false again), than to work through the distinction employed in my actual comment (between utterances of those who otherwise possess magisteria and actual magisterial pronouncements.)

    Now, let’s look more closely into the actual theological matter of the case. St. Thomas, among others, teaches that while soldiers may not simply obey orders blindly, they are ordinarily to defer to the judgment of superiors regarding participation in war. In other words, only when a war (or smaller instance of armed combat) is clearly, evidently unjust, may they refuse to participate, at which point one can conclude they MUST not participate. Since Mark’s position is that there is no common sense way that war could possibly have been justified under any evaluation of the supposed facts at hand, the magisterial pronouncements ought to reflect this fact. Is that, however, the case? The magisterial unanimity Mark is vaunting came nowhere close to evaluating the case in this strict manner. In fact, only one of the hundreds of bishops in the United States (and, possibly, of the thousands in the world) actually forbade his subjects from participating in the war. So we have a unanimity of one in favor of Mark’s position. Whatever other ACTUAL magisterial pronouncements there may have been fell short of this, presumably reflecting the fact that the bishops issuing them did NOT believe the war had reached so extreme an impossibility of being unjust, and thus limited themselves to counsel, as is the role of a bishop in forming consciences of those to whom it actually falls to make decisions. Here’s the kicker, though – Mark’s unanimity of one not only fails to account for that theological distinction, it more simply and blatantly fails to account for the bishop who ought to have been most notable in NOT condemning the invasion of Iraq, THE ARCHBISHOP FOR THE MILITARY SERVICES. Yes, that’s right folks, the bishop whose magisterial authority includes every American Catholic serviceman and whom one ought to expect to be best informed and most vigilant concerning possible military actions did not even condemn the war, let alone forbid his subjects from participating. Once again, let’s remember, one can honestly acknowledge that fact without having to support the war. So far, however, such non-committal acknowledgements seem to have threatened Mark’s stridency too much.

  • Boniface

    If almost all wars are unjust, as one commentator above said, what about the plethora of wars that Catholics have waged throughout the ages that no popes even made any mention about and nobody condemned? No pope condemned the Crusades – they were the ones calling them. No pope condemned or even spoke against the 1588 invasion of England. War was such a frequent part of the Middle Ages, no pope or bishop seemed to take any general stance against war except to encourage clemency and moderation when war has broken out. My question, for those who say that a war is almost never just, is what do you make of the general silence of the popes and the bishops and even the theologians over the vast span of time from Constantine to the modern period who didn’t come close to making any protests against the various wars that were being waged throughout Christendom constantly? I am speaking not of abstract formulations about just war, but specific reservations/objections to wars then going on. This seems to suggest that the modern Church’s view that war is almosty never just is completely out of kilter with what how the Church has acted on the matter throughout most of her history, when war was simply accepted with little more than a peep from the Magisterium.

  • Brian English

    “It seems you’re trying to play a lawyerly game of claiming that since the intent to kill babies in Iraq was never explicit it nullifies moral culpability. Nice try, but no cigar. By that rationale an abortionist could say his intent was never to kill the baby but to improve the quality of life for the mother.”

    So according to your interpretation of St. Thomas, if a missle fired at a jihadist firing a machine gun at U.S. troops caused a building to collapse on a pregnant Iraqi woman, everyone who supported the war that resulted in the U.S. soldier being there to fire the missle is as morally culpable as an abortion doctor? I am going to have to disagree with you on that one.

  • Brian English

    You can’t start asking questions like that Boniface. That would mean these issues are difficult to work through, and require thought, and charity to those who disagree with you.

    Accusations of supporting baby killing, nun raping and killing, and being a practitioner of the art of persuasion as practiced at the National Catholic Reporter are so much easier to make. I am sure they also have the benefit of endowing the accuser with a very satisfying sense of moral superiority.

  • Brian English

    Here is a paragraph from the 2002 Amnesty International Report on Iraq:

    The [Iraqi] Government for decades has conducted a brutal campaign of killings, summary execution, arbitrary arrest, and protracted detention against the religious leaders and followers of the majority Shi

  • John Pass

    Clearly, Saddam was a jerk. A depraved, evil jerk. That doesn’t justify the war.

    President Obama shamelessly supports the killing of innocent babies. Does that mean someone can invade the US in order to depose him, protect innocent lives, and maybe make a profit for the companies with which that someone is entangled.

    The biggeset joke on this board is the comments by some that we only have one of two choices of political parties.

    When I partied in college, we played beer pong. Now, when we party, it’s a third party.

  • wineinthewater

    I think there is something being missed here.

    It is true that the magisterium did not speak with infallibility that the war in Iraq was unjust. That allows for the possibility of validly disagreeing with the magisterium on this matter.

    However, the magisterium *has* infallibly taught that the faithful are to receive the direction of the bishops with humility and docility. This means that the faithful need a very, *very* good reason to reject the direction of their bishops. So, anyone who says that they are free to disagree with the overwhelming condemnation of going to war in Iraq by the bishops must meet this rather high standard. Party loyalty, dubious intelligence, lack of information, deception .. none of these meet this standard.

  • Cathy

    Mark, I asked a question, not for information on whether we ever intend to leave. Would you consider it just for us to simply leave Iraq right now? I know North Korea would love it if we left South Korea.

  • Brian English

    “So, anyone who says that they are free to disagree with the overwhelming condemnation of going to war in Iraq by the bishops must meet this rather high standard.”

    The bishops, in the form of the USCCB, do not have anything more than persuasive authority.

  • Mark Shea

    Lauren:

    I have no grand political strategy, believing politics to large be an attempt to knit using tire irons. For myself, my practice is to only vote for candidates who do not ask me to support intrinsic grave evils. That meant, in 2008, I voted from some guy whose name I can’t remember from some party with quixotic goals involving not killing either babies or torturing prisoners.

    My friend Tom Kreitzberg remarks that “Voting is the stone in the stone soup of civic life.” I think that if people really want to change politics, it probably means getting involved in the nitty gritty of the caucus process and other such local things. But I also suspect that the political process is largely a function of very rich people herding us wee folk around to their particular ends. I doubt very much that the tail wags the dog.

  • Mark Shea

    I’m sorry. Is my column getting in the way of your monoblog? If you like, I could talk to the Management and just have them take it down so you could just dominate completely.

    Sheesh!

  • Mark Shea

    This seems to suggest that the modern Church’s view that war is almosty never just is completely out of kilter with what how the Church has acted on the matter throughout most of her history, when war was simply accepted with little more than a peep from the Magisterium.

    And it could also have something to do with the fact that in Constantine’s day or in 1588, nation-states did not have the technology to extinguish all human life on planet Earth. The Church prudently takes two global wars and the arms race into her calculations in such matters, while bellicose Catholics who still live in June 1914 continue to base their magisterial denunciations of the Magisterium on outdated information, seemingly unaware that overwhelming civilizational catastrophes not only can happen, but have happened repeatedly, often at the hand of people who denounce popes as unmanly while they try in vain to stop disasters like WWI.

  • Brian English

    “I’m sorry. Is my column getting in the way of your monoblog? If you like, I could talk to the Management and just have them take it down so you could just dominate completely.”

    What are you talking about?

  • Brian English

    This a paragraph from Hadley Arkes’ article today at The Catholic Thing:

    When we add up these things, we come face to face again with the truth that somehow dares not speak its name even among Catholics: Like it or not

  • Paul E.

    Mr. Shea is a politically left leaning blogger who typically depicts himself as a man without political orientation in an attempt to bestow a false or missing objectivity on his own opinions and thereby inflate them. In an attempt to render them unassailable, he dresses them in the sacramental robes of the Church. This tactic is not foreign to the left, which has ever sought to attach a false morality to its every love child from Socialism to the environment. Unfortunately, he is not alone in the Church he claims, and when he speaks as a Catholic he represents me and many others like me who do not recognize the Church he portrays.

    This article is no exception. Here Shea cites the morality of abortion only to elevate the moral imperative of the peace movement. He actually sideswipes the right to life by consigning it to the political right, and devalues it by deliberately confusing a clear moral imperative with prudential judgment. The confusion this sews among fellow Catholics who have found in this stew a way to continue to elect anti-life politicians to even the highest office is of no concern to him. And if that confusion continues to result in electoral outcomes that find Catholics voting in the majority for rulers who contend that the inception and termination of life are above their pay grades, well what of it. Mark has said that is immoral, hasn’t he? Why should that deter him from using the unborn to slap at a part of the political spectrum he dislikes?

  • Andy

    What are you talking about?

    I think he’s pointing out that you currently own 29 of the 97 comments on this article. Why so much interest?

    Mr. Shea is a politically left leaning blogger

    Whom you have obviously never read before.

  • Harold Seger

    Simplicity works. This article is a compound, complex mix of various topics and it makes sense in only one level. The psudo attack on “conservative Catholics” vs the quasi support for liberal catholics; tied to the topic of just/unjust war and abortion,and offering direction to …well no where.
    This is the kind of writing that comes from the “I” and not the works of the Holy Spirit. The works of Marc Shea have had the inspired attributes of the Holy Spirit in the past; this article is clealy NOT ONE OF THEM!
    Marc, please take a short rest, pray to the Holy Spirit for guidance..and in all humility, listen; lest you end up another dissident ex-catholic.

    Respectfully,
    The Hermit of Littleton

  • JackQ

    Bravo, my good man! Bravo! Your insights are excellent and timely. Too many of us let our political parties dictate the terms of our religious observance. You’re shining a light on a very dark place where political parties attempt to commandeer whole religions to their own quest for power. The Catholic Church will, of course, prove to strong for that in the end. Keep up the good work.

  • Brian English

    “I think he’s pointing out that you currently own 29 of the 97 comments on this article. Why so much interest?”

    See my post above regarding the voting on the Partial Birth Abortion Act.

    And I thought sites like this wanted people to comment. What do you think is an acceptable number? Five, ten, fifteen? I did not realize there were quotas.

  • Greta

    Shea gives aid and comfort to the party of death by his constant complaining about the Iraq war as if it had any morale equivalent. The reality of the situation on our country is we have two parties and one has brought us slavery, lynching, civil war, denial of civil rights, and abortion and is the party of death. They have supported abortion which has killed over 19 million african american babies while preaching like they were the salvation of the black race. They have used their welfare programs to control the african american and enable the growth of single moms so that the current rate of birth to single moms in that community is over 70% thus insuring the ongoing need of that community to look to government handouts. They have fought any true change in the public schools again condemning the poor to lifelong handouts and control by the democratic party and their union thugs in the classroom. they do this while sending their kids to private schools and that includes Barry Obama. The Iraq war was started after overwhelming votes of support by both parties and the OK of the UN which was obtained after Colin Powell spent days looking over every shred of evidence of the need to attack and he took the argument for war to the UN. Powell is no war hound seeking every battle he can find. If Bush had not gone to war with the information we had and any attack had occured, the left would have sought impeachment at a minimum. We have sat by and allowed Iran to gain nuclear weapons which we will pay a huge price for in the future under the left democrat leadership while they forced socialism and bankruptcy on the US.

  • Greg Mockeridge

    Not all moral issues have the same moral weight as abortion and euthanasia. For example, if a Catholic were to be at odds with the Holy Father on the application of capital punishment or on the decision to wage war, he would not for that reason be considered unworthy to present himself to receive Holy Communion. While the Church exhorts civil authorities to seek peace, not war, and to exercise discretion and mercy in imposing punishment on criminals, it may still be permissible to take up arms to repel an aggressor or to have recourse to capital punishment. There may be a legitimate diversity of opinion even among Catholics about waging war and applying the death penalty, but not however with regard to abortion and euthanasia. ( Cardinal Ratzinger Worthiness to Receive Holy Communion

  • Mark Shea

    Simplicity works. This article is a compound, complex mix of various topics and it makes sense in only one level. The psudo attack on “conservative Catholics” vs the quasi support for liberal catholics; tied to the topic of just/unjust war and abortion,and offering direction to …well no where.

    I *think* this may be the most confused piece if syntactic linguini I’ve read in this thread. If what I wrote is a “psudo attack” then that means it wasn’t a real attack. However, it appears I am guilty of “quasi support” for liberal Catholics. I’m not sure how the Hermit of Littleton divined this support from phrases like “the Left’s commitment to abortion as its sole core principle” or statements describing the Left sole core value thusly: “But at the end of the day, what is being fought for is child killing.” But then again, something I’ve noticed increasingly is that the Thing that Used to Be Conservatism is less and less interested in ideas and more and more interested in Pavlovian responses to acoustic cues, such that if I also criticize the Right, then I could not have been sincere in my criticism of the Left. That was mere smokescreen and I am a sinister mole who really supports abortion and the Leftist agenda. Merely disagreeing with some piece of conservative piety renders you vehemently suspect of heresy and of Consorting with Liberals. For the Thing that Used to be Conservatism is now an all-encompassing ideological Theory of Everything and to call into question the smallest jot or tittle is to attack (or is that “psudo attack”?) it all.

    This is the kind of writing that comes from the “I” and not the works of the Holy Spirit. The works of Marc Shea have had the inspired attributes of the Holy Spirit in the past; this article is clealy NOT ONE OF THEM!

    On my planet, what makes something rooted in the Holy Spirit is “Does the Holy Catholic Church teach it?” In my article, I suggest that we should get our soteriology (that is, the theology of salvation) from the Catholic Church and not from the theory that opposition to abortion (or, for that matter, support for “social justice”) takes away the sins of the world. Indeed, I recommend in this article that one be as docile as possible to the whole teaching of the Catholic Church. I don’t claim to carry that program out well myself, since I’m not a saint. But I do try to point out that this is what the Church, following Jesus, recommends. How the recommendation to follow the whole teaching of Holy Church morphs, in the Hermit’s mind, into something that is opposed to the will of the Spirit, let alone constitutes the beginning of the road to becoming an ex-Catholic, I will leave him to explain. Also, I would be highly amused to discover the means by which he anointed my previous work as having “inspired attributes of the Holy Spirit”. My recommendation: Don’t exalt mere human authors to the skies with false adulation and they won’t seem to have fallen so far when they commit the sin of offending your political pieties.

  • Mark Shea

    These two statements prove that papal and episcopal opposition to capital punishment and the war in Iraq are prudential judgments and not a part of Church teaching.

    And that statement demonstrates exactly my point about Catholics who think that “prudential judgment” somehow means something in the ballpark of “the opposite of Church teaching” or “Church teaching I can blow off if I feel like it”.

  • Pammie

    This is what I wrote: “And isn’t it ironic that Iraqui(sic) Christians have been more likely to be targeted by terrorists on our watch than on the evil Saddam Hussein’s?”

    From this simple statement you ascertain somehow that I am “a fan of Saddam” and do not realise the man was a brutal dictator the likes of which can be found throughout Africa and other parts of the world today.

    The report from Amnesty International you so thoughtfully provided is more to the point of my statement than you seem to realise. Saddam was in fact an equal opportunity killer whose brutality was well matched (it appears) by those suicidal fundamentalists he was fighting. He kept all the crazies in line that we have been fighting now for ..how many years is it? His Bathist Party preached a secular society and Christians werent taking the brunt of every Islamic sect with an axe to grind was it? Because Saddam brutally repressed them ALL it seems.

    Isn’t it much better now that our neighbourhood boys are over there trying to keep the crazies under control? Do you really have one doubt that as soon as the last 19 yr American boy leaves that some one like Saddam will fight his way to the top again? More “Osama friendly” than Saddam ever was. I’m sure you are familiar with the history of Iraq.

    And then where should we be off to Mr. English, spreading the gospel of democracy and American culture at the end of a gun and and hemorrhaging the lives of our best young people? There is no end of places that have horrible, homicidal leaders.

    Nevermind. I seem to recall your sources think Iran is next on the improvement list. And on it goes. And on it goes until the chaos you so are so willing to inflict on other people in order to “protect our interests” comes home to roost in your own back yard. Maybe then some of the points Mr Shea has tried to make will make more sense to you, too late.

  • Brian English

    ” Saddam was in fact an equal opportunity killer whose brutality was well matched (it appears) by those suicidal fundamentalists he was fighting. He kept all the crazies in line that we have been fighting now for ..how many years is it?”

    Where in that paragraph do you see reference to Saddam fighting suicidal fundamentalists? Unless you consider all Shi’a suicidal fundamentalists.

    “His Bathist Party preached a secular society and Christians werent taking the brunt of every Islamic sect with an axe to grind was it?”

    Christians haven’t been taking the brunt of the killings since Saddam was overthrown. The overwhelming majority of those killed in Iraq have been Muslims.

  • Mark Shea

    Christians haven’t been taking the brunt of the killings since Saddam was overthrown. The overwhelming majority of those killed in Iraq have been Muslims.

    Wow! That’ll be great news to the Church in Iraq that is becoming extinct! Good to know that the slaughter and violence which is destroying Iraqi Christianity is even *worse* for non-Christian civilians.

  • Mark

    “This is about a new theory of soteriology which holds that, so long as you are opposed to abortion, you can support a war you know to be unjust” – Mark P. Shea

    This logic can also be applied to liberals (and third party supporters) who rationalize that so long as they are opposed to an “unjust war”, they can be forgiven for putting Democrats in power knowing full well that they promote:

    - abortion
    - homosexuality
    - socialism
    - fiscal irresponsibility
    - promiscuity
    - embryonic stem cell research
    - euthanasia (Obamacare rationing)
    - welfare state

    etc.

    Even if the shaky premise of supporting an unjust war was true, reasonable people can obviously see that the scale is in no way balanced.

  • Pammie

    Mr. English:”Christians haven’t been taking the brunt of the killings since Saddam was overthrown. The overwhelming majority of those killed in Iraq have been Muslims.”

    Mr. English the point is this: Under Saddam Muslim sects were too afraid to blow up Christian churches with them in it. Now they are not, because Americans don’t like to massacre their entire village in revenge. To be crystal clear: If we’ve improved the life for Christians in Iraq , shouldnt more of them be staying? It’s the same sort of logic one applies to the Christian population in Israel. If it’s so great for them, where’s everybody going?

    Mr. English:”Where in that paragraph do you see reference to Saddam fighting suicidal fundamentalists? Unless you consider all Shi’a suicidal fundamentalists.”

    Fundamentalist whackos tend to come from the Shiites , as I suppose do suicide bombers. Sunnis not so much in the old days. Is that relevent to the discussion? Shiites were generally opposed to muslim secular government, such as Saddam’s Bathist regime. Not to mention , that Saddam thought they were a little too uppity and troublesome for his tastes. Dictators are like that, arent they?

  • Brian English

    “Wow! That’ll be great news to the Church in Iraq that is becoming extinct! Good to know that the slaughter and violence which is destroying Iraqi Christianity is even *worse* for non-Christian civilians.”

    (1) Why do you think the Church will think that is great news? And why do you think it is “good to know” that it is far worse for non-Christians?

    (2) The Church was becoming extinct in the Middle East prior to the 2003 invasion. In the decade leading up to that invasion, a third of the Christian population had left the region.

    (3) Did you read the paragraph above from the Amnesty International 2002 report? There was plenty of slaughter and violence in Iraq prior to the invasion. Do you agree with Pammie that it was better under Saddam, since only the Baathist Regime was doing the killing, rather than AQI and sectarian militias?

  • Mark Shea

    This logic can also be applied to liberals (and third party supporters) who rationalize that so long as they are opposed to an “unjust war”, they can be forgiven for putting Democrats in power…

    Hey! That could have something to do with why I wrote: “Our call is to be disciples of Jesus Christ, and no substitute religion — whether the religion of “commitment to social justice” or the religion of “being pro-life” — can substitute for the fullness of Catholic faith in Him.”

  • Pammie

    Mr. English:”Do you agree with Pammie that it was better under Saddam, since only the Baathist Regime was doing the killing, rather than AQI and sectarian militias?”

    Once again you are leaping to conclusions that suit . I DID NOT say it was better for Christians under Saddam. I stated the facts as I have understood them to be, which is, ONCE AGAIN, that Muslim violence against Christians was contained under Saddam because the sects were too afraid of the consequences to do otherwise. They are not afraid of Americans which is why we are seeing frequent Church bombings and attacks. It’s that simple.

    By the way, Saddam Hussein was almost as afraid of Bin Laden and the Taliban (and any muslim fundamentalist group really) as we are. They were almost always his enemies and wished to see him destroyed because of his secularist stance and killing squads. It is really a strange twist of fate that we destroyed him supposedly to punish his support of these groups against us. Thus to tyrants I suppose one would say.

  • GABRIEL

    MARK SHEA SEEMS TO BE THE ONLY ONE HERE, WHO ACTUALLY WANTS TO KEEP THE COVENANT. THUS READS THE 6TH COMMANDMENT:

    T-H-O-U
    S-H-A-L-L
    N-O-T
    K-I-L-L

    THOU SHALL NOT KILL. THOU SHALL NOT KILL. THOU SHALL NOT KILL.

    GOD HAS FORBIDDEN YOU.
    NO-WHERE IN THE BIBLE DOES IT SAY THAT KEEPING THE COVENANT IS OPTIONAL.

    THANK YOU MARK P. SHEA FOR STAYING FAITHFUL AND TRUE TO YOUR GOD.

    INDEED: TEST MANKIND THE SLIGHTEST, AND THEY WILL MAKE UP ANY EXCUSE TO BREAK THE COVENANT.

    EXCEPT FOR MARK.

  • Pammie

    Mr. English :”2) The Church was becoming extinct in the Middle East prior to the 2003 invasion. In the decade leading up to that invasion, a third of the Christian population had left the region.”

    Please cite a reference for this information and specifically what areas to which it is referring . Thanks in advance.

  • Mark D.

    Excellent piece. Mr. Shea.

  • Harold Seger

    Where do you get the idea that Conservative Catholics feel they get a “free pass” by just supporting Pro-Life. “…if one opposes abortion, one is absolved of any other moral choices one may make, including supporting an unjust war that kills thousands of innocent people… ” Your whole premise about Conservative susggests they are just name only juvinile people of the Catholic faith. It is imaginary….it is part of the Liberal bubble…not part of reality. Theory, not fact. Perception instead of reality. Conservative denotes fundamentalism. Work with the poor, and see their faith..it is not intellectual.. it is fundamental based on the Spirit. When pressed, in my protastant world, about cathoics are all liberals; it is quickly pointed out that my faith, as a fundamental conservitive Catholic, is more fundamental than theirs…and the dialogue goes forward. My faith goes back to 33AD theirs to 1640. They deny history, I read it. Some of the Doctors of the Church were illerate. Their wisdom came from the Holy Spirit. Your piece, above and your response are like the Scribes trying to trap Jesus. You are in a liberal bubble of the “I”. Fundamentalism, base on the Holy Spirit is where Jesus spoke from….where you seem to have spoken from in times past, and now are very much in the Scribes “I” place. You ignored my prayer, for you to rest and regroup and see what He wants you to say and do…not act like a Scribe….Tonights Euchrist adoration and Mass were offered for that end, for you, Mark….
    Respectfully,
    AScM
    The Hermit of Littleton

  • AT

    Dear Mr Shea
    The problem is that about 1 billion abortions were preformed over the last few decades world wide. It

  • Carl

    Your

  • Carl

    I have a question for you assuming you only accept the Army field manual for interrogation purposes.

    Where

  • Mark Shea

    And it

  • Brian English

    “The Pew poll is old news:”

    And irrelevant. Where is your poll establishing the purported point of your article: Conservative Catholics believe that being pro-life allows them to commit as many other sins as they want?

  • Brian English

    “By the way, Saddam Hussein was almost as afraid of Bin Laden and the Taliban (and any muslim fundamentalist group really) as we are. They were almost always his enemies and wished to see him destroyed because of his secularist stance and killing squads.”

    Saddam got religion after the first Gulf War. Koranic verses started appearing on buildings and he started playing up his devotion to Islam. Saddam was a survivor, and he saw which way the wind was blowing.

    And he certainly didn’t hate all terrorists. They guy who built the bomb for the 1993 World Trade Center attack was living in Baghdad at the time of the invasion. Everyone also knows about the bonuses he was paying to the families of Palestinian suicide bombers.

  • RK

    Where is your poll establishing the purported point of your article: Conservative Catholics believe that being pro-life allows them to commit as many other sins as they want?

    I’m conducting a poll and Brian is the only person I’m polling since he speaks for all American, Catholics, Muslims, babies, landscapers, etc.. He doesn’t even need to answer my question since he’s made it clear he’s against abortion and thinks whatever our government says on any other issue, especially as it pertains to wars of American agression, supercedes anything the Popes, Bishops or any other religous leader says. Oh, and Brian seems to object to cafeteria Catholics……..but I can’t imagine why……

  • Brian English

    “He doesn’t even need to answer my question since he’s made it clear he’s against abortion and thinks whatever our government says on any other issue, especially as it pertains to wars of American agression, supercedes anything the Popes, Bishops or any other religous leader says. Oh, and Brian seems to object to cafeteria Catholics……..but I can’t imagine why……”

    Actually, in areas where prudential judgment is involved, what I decide, after educating myself on the issue, is the course I must follow. If my conclusion, in a prudential area, like whether a war is just, conflicts with the the conclusions reached by the Pope and the Bishops, that is okay, as B16 has said on at least two occassions.

    The idea that in areas of prudential judgment Catholics have to defer to the Pope and the Bishops is drawing dangerously close to the anti-Catholic slander that the Pope tells all Catholics what to think.

    As far as approving of everything the government does in war, I think one of the most shameful events in US history, and one of the reasons I supported the 2003 invasion, was when the Shi’as rose against Saddam after the First Gulf War, following our encouragement, and we did nothing as they were slaughtered.

    I also think Rumsfeld made a tragic mistake by not sending more troops in the initial invasion force. Refusing to alter his approach after it became clear we needed more troops was inexcusable.

  • Pammie

    Mr English:”And irrelevant. Where is your poll establishing the purported point of your article: Conservative Catholics believe that being pro-life allows them to commit as many other sins as they want.”

    Did I miss your source for the statement you previously posted–about The Church becoming extinct in the Middle East prior to 2003? Very curious about that.

    Carl:”Your

  • Brian English
  • vmznning

    You all seem to have been missing in action at the Baghdad Cathedral.Slaughtering Catholics is now Islamosport,and you debate child killing in the “moral” context of defending Western (which still means “Christian”) civilization. And I suppose the death penalty is really never,ever to be used so long as we have prisons, where inmates “find” God in time for hearings, while their victims were sent on without a thought given to the state of their souls at the point of untimely death. As with aetheists, there are no pious choirboys in foxholes (or Humvees). But at least we know where the atheist is coming from.

  • Brian English
  • Mark

    “Where do you get the idea that Conservative Catholics feel they get a “free pass” by just supporting Pro-Life.” – Harold Seger

    Precisely. The building of straw men and them tearing them down is a deceptive act. Unfortunately, those who practice it are often too immature and prideful to recognize what they are doing. They just seem to want to “win” too badly — even at the cost of honesty.

  • Brian English

    I know you addressed your question to Mark, but this section of Cardinal Ratzinger’s 2004 letter to the US Bishops relates to the issue you raise:

    [N.B. A Catholic would be guilty of formal cooperation in evil, and so unworthy to present himself for Holy Communion, if he were to deliberately vote for a candidate precisely because of the candidate

  • Pammie

    The Independent (London), Wednesday, 24 September 1997, p. 11
    By Robert Fisk

    Exodus: Christians of the Arab world flee their Biblical homeland

    “In Iraq, at least 50,000 Assyrian Christians left in the immediate aftermath of the 1991 Gulf War, many of them to the United States. This exodus

  • Pammie

    “But at least we know where the atheist is coming from.”

    America’s premier atheist,Christopher Hitchens, is on your team. And so is his brother Peter Hitchens, a practicing CofE, so I’m not following your logic. Thank you for calling me pious though. It’s an adjective that I’ve never heard before in regards to myself.

  • Brian English

    “Thank you Mr. English. The above excerpt tends to make one of my points with you.”

    No it doesn’t. You and Mr. Shea claimed the 2003 invasion caused the destruction of the Church in Iraq. In reality, Christians had been leaving the country long before the invasion.

  • Pammie

    Mr. English:”No it doesn’t. You and Mr. Shea claimed the 2003 invasion caused the destruction of the Church in Iraq. In reality, Christians had been leaving the country long before the invasion.”

    No, I don’t believe I did. What I did say was it didn’t improve the lives of Christians in Iraq and in fact seems to have left them more vulnerable to attack than they were under Saddam’s regime. Which is quite different than claiming the 2003 invasion destroyed the Iraqi Church, woudldn’t you say? I don’t recall Mr. Shea making that claim either, but you’ll have to take that up with him.

  • Mark Shea

    You and Mr. Shea claimed the 2003 invasion caused the destruction of the Church in Iraq.

    Actually, I was just relying on the word of the Iraqi bishop who said: “Since the year 2003, Christians are the victims of a killing situation, which has provoked a great emigration from Iraq. Even if there are no definite statistics, however the indicators underline that half the Christians have abandoned Iraq and that without a doubt there are only about 400,000 Christians left of the 800,000 that lived there. The invasion of Iraq by America and its allies brought to Iraq in general, and especially to its Christians, destruction and ruin on all levels.”

    But what does an ignoramus and ingrate like him know when compared with the vast geopolitical gamesmanship of Some Guy with a Keyboard in a Combox? If only Chaldean bishops could look past their bleeding flocks to the Grand Vision of the Laptop Bombardier.

  • Greg Mockeridge

    Mr. Shea:

    Only matters of doctrine are actually a part of Church teaching. So, “being at odds with the Holy Father” regarding the war in Iraq or the death penalty is “blowing off Church teaching when they feel like it”. It is simply a legitimate Catholic position.

    If you have a problem with that Mark, you have a problem with the teaching of the Church, not George Bush, Marc Thiessen, or many others you routinely draw false parallels with pro-aborts etc.

  • Brian English

    “Middle Eastern bishops attempted once again to make the daring suggestion to Catholics that a war whose chief fruit has been the destruction of the Iraqi Church is a war that needs to be seriously reconsidered:”

    and

    “Wow! That’ll be great news to the Church in Iraq that is becoming extinct! Good to know that the slaughter and violence which is destroying Iraqi Christianity is even *worse* for non-Christian civilians.”

    So was it some other invasion that you claim is making the Church in Iraq become extinct?

    And do you dispute that Christians had been leaving Iraq, and other parts of the Middle East, long before the 2003 invasion?

    And I also don’t use a laptop.

  • Greg Mockeridge

    My aboce statement was supposed to read:

    Only matters of doctrine are actually a part of Church teaching. So, “being at odds with the Holy Father” regarding the war in Iraq or the death penalty is not “blowing off Church teaching when they feel like it”. It is simply a legitimate Catholic position.

  • Carl

    Mr. Shea you described Lennon’s anti-war philosophy as high school sophomoric.

  • Marthe L

    “Only matters of doctrine are actually a part of Church teaching. So, “being at odds with the Holy Father” regarding the war in Iraq or the death penalty is not “blowing off Church teaching when they feel like it”. It is simply a legitimate Catholic position”
    I do not fully agree… The Pope and the hierarchy have been given the job, among others, to teach Catholics how to apply Jesus’ teaching in their everyday lives. This is certainly not limited to “matters of doctrine”, otherwise it would make just as much sense to say that our faith and religion are private matters that should never be brought up, or applied, in our everyday life and our professionnal life outside of the churches on Sundays. Myself, I would tend to believe, and accept, that the Church authorities are guided by the Holy Spirit when they express opinions about the value of our actions, and that it is wise to listen to them.

  • Russell Peterson

    Thank you for an excellent article which illustrates the theological problem of understanding morality through the lens of the American two party system. Catholic means universal and our care and concern for our brother and sister Catholics in Iraq must increase while our care and concern about which American political party to support must decrease.
    May God Bless Your Ministry

  • Brian English

    “Myself, I would tend to believe, and accept, that the Church authorities are guided by the Holy Spirit when they express opinions about the value of our actions, and that it is wise to listen to them.”

    Greg is actually paraphrasing from a letter written by B16 when he was Cardinal Ratzinger.

  • Brian English

    “Catholic means universal and our care and concern for our brother and sister Catholics in Iraq must increase while our care and concern about which American political party to support must decrease.”

    Did you read the excerpt from Hadley Arkes’ article I quoted above? Did you see the breakdown of votes by party on the Partial Birth Abortion Ban in 2003? Did you see which party voted overwhelmingly against banning infanticide?

    It is common tactic on these types of comment boards for people to claim that Republicans don’t actually care about abortion. When I see people ignore evidence like the 2003 vote, I wonder if it is the people making those comments who don’t actually care about abortion.

  • Aaron

    Marthe,
    You rightly point out that questions such as the waging of war are not hermetically sealed from the doctrinal authority of the Magisterium(/a). Yet when attacking the question as a matter of *application* of doctrine, you locate the guide in the wrong offices/institutions. When matters of moral law move beyond generalities into the realm of concrete, specific application, it is the human lawgiver that guides the community in applying the higher law. In the case of interior matters or those affecting only individual goods, we are guided by the divine law as applied under the guidance of ecclesiastical lawmakers. When it comes to the exterior forum, however, in matters of the common good, we are guided by the civil lawmaker. This distinction has been part of the Catholic intellectual (i.e. philosophical and theological) tradition since St. Thomas adopted an Aristotelian politics in lieu of the traditional Augustinian Neo-Platonic view of the state.

    We can see this principal of the civil legislator as applicator of moral principle at work in less morally grave issues such as economic policy. In that realm we find the Roman and local magisteria articulating to us general principles such as subsidiarity, solidarity, a right to work, etc., but when it comes time to apply those principles in the form of specific governmental policies and acts, no one accuses (or at least ought to accuse) a politician of doctrinal dissent for choosing a different course of action which, after careful and honest deliberation, seems better poised to implement successfully those principles than do the concrete suggestions of his bishop’s/bishops’ conference’s most recent pastoral. Though the moral stakes are significantly heightened in the case of warfare because of the incredible gravity of taking human life, the general principle of application remains the same. Bishops authoritatively teach the general moral principles of the Church, but when it comes to the specific application of those to contingent particulars, a politican does not “dissent” from a teaching authority at all when he interprets the facts in a different way. Rather, he carries out what is in fact, under Catholic political teaching, his proper duty.

  • Douglas

    We hardly need the pope to make the judgment. Nor would he. The pope’s authority of binding and loosing is over baptized Christians. Every Catholic ought to know the four principles that must be respected in order for a war to be just. These two wars do not measure up to even one of those criteria.

    How many times do Americans, especially Catholics, need to be told that Iraq had nothing to do with 9/11? No country did. Saddam Hussein was not our enemy. It was a covert terrorist organization. All but two of the twenty suicide murderers were from Saudi Arabia. Nor would the US be right in waging war against the Saudis. 9/11 was not Pearl Harbor. And that’s a whole other story.

    If you want a just war, perhaps we should have invaded Cuba or done something to topple the bloody dictator Castro, who persecuted the Church and anti-communists. Want to fight a dictator, fight Jintao and the Red tyranny in China, instead of giving this occupied nation “most favored nation status” as have every one of our presidents from Carter to Obama (Reagan included). I say China is occupied because Mao and his cohorts and their successors are foreign trained (Red Russia) Marxist/Darwinian/atheists. Mao was financed by the plutocratic invisible government that rules the West. Just as Lenin was. The USA and Allies gave eastern Europe over to the Reds at Yalta. Now we are sacrificing our young men and women (and innocent Iraqis who are not jihadist)to protect the oil monopolists. Maybe Saddam was in the way of the oil oligarchs?

  • Carl

    Decision Points, George W. Bush (pages 168-171, 178-180)

  • Michael

    As Bl John Henry Newman, no cafeteria Catholic he, points out in his “Letter to the Duke of Norfolk”
    “Was St. Peter infallible on that occasion at Antioch when St. Paul withstood him? Was St. Victor infallible when he separated from his communion the Asiatic Churches? Or Liberius when, in like manner, he excommunicated Athanasius? And, to come to later times, was Gregory XIII., when he had a medal struck in honour of the Bartholomew massacre? Or Paul IV in his conduct towards Elizabeth? Or Sextus V. when he blessed the Armada? Or Urban VIII when he persecuted Galileo? No Catholic ever pretends that these Popes were infallible in these acts. Since then infallibility alone could block the exercise of conscience, and the Pope is not infallible in that subject-matter in which conscience is of supreme authority, no deadlock, such as is implied in the objection which I am answering, can take place between conscience and the Pope.”

  • Raphale

    Argument from authority, straw-man, reducto ad absurdum, etc. etc.

    Your article is full of logical fallacies. I support the Death penalty in almost all cases and think that it is not being used nearly enough in America. I am not convinced of the illegitimacy of the war in Iraq. Nor am I convinced that the non-magisterial opines of current bishops is in accord with over 200 other popes and over a millenium of Church teaching and practice. I am convinced that the USCCB is Modernist and no friend of the Holy Church. Pope John Paul II and Pope Benedict XVI have not spoken authoritatively in their office as Pope on the question of the Iraq War, and the CCC leaves plenty of room for personal interpretation, in keeping with the self-emasculating “spirit of Vatican II”.

    I am a Roman Catholic seminarian and will be ordained soon. God Bless.

  • Carl

    George W. Bush on Just War argument, 2003 State of the Union Speech:

    http://www.cspan.org/executive/transcript.asp?cat=current&code=bush_admin&year=2003

    Bush on Pro-life:

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