False Courage and True Courage

There is a curious and creepy fact I have noticed. It runs through things like Heinrich Himmler’s secret address given in October 1943 to SS troops carrying out the mass murder of Jews:

I also want to mention a very difficult subject before you here, completely openly.

It should be discussed amongst us, and yet, nevertheless, we will never speak about it in public.

Just as we did not hesitate on June 30 to carry out our duty, as ordered, and stand comrades who had failed against the wall and shoot them.

About which we have never spoken, and never will speak.

That was, thank God, a kind of tact natural to us, a foregone conclusion of that tact, that we have never conversed about it amongst ourselves, never spoken about it, everyone shuddered, and everyone was clear that the next time, he would do the same thing again, if it were commanded and necessary.

I am talking about the “Jewish evacuation”: the extermination of the Jewish people.

It is one of those things that is easily said. “The Jewish people is being exterminated,” every Party member will tell you, “perfectly clear, it’s part of our plans, we’re eliminating the Jews, exterminating them, ha!, a small matter.”

And then along they all come, all the 80 million upright Germans, and each one has his decent Jew. They say: all the others are swine, but here is a first-class Jew.

And none of them has seen it, has endured it. Most of you will know what it means when 100 bodies lie together, when there are 500, or when there are 1,000. And to have seen this through, and — with the exception of human weaknesses — to have remained decent, has made us hard and is a page of glory never mentioned and never to be mentioned.

Or P. Z. Myers’ “brave” defense of abortion:

[T]he standard bullying tactics of waving bloody fetuses might cow the squeamish, but I’m a biologist. I’ve guillotined rats. I’ve held eyeballs in my hand and peeled them apart with a pair of scissors. I’ve used a wet-vac to clean up a lake of half-clotted blood from an exsanguinated dog. I’ve opened bodies and watched the intestines do their slow writhing dance, I’ve been elbow deep in blood, I’ve split open cats and stabbed them in the heart with a perfusion needle. I’ve extracted the brains of mice . . . with a pair of pliers. I’ve scooped brains out of buckets, I’ve counted dendrites in slices cut from the brains of dead babies.

You want to make me back down by trying to inspire revulsion with dead baby pictures? I look at them unflinchingly and see meat. And meat does not frighten me.

Or this story from a Croatian named Vladko Macek, who witnessed the horrors of the Jasenovac death camp as one of the inmates there. In his memoirs, he tells us:

The camp had previously been a brick-yard and was situated on the embankment of the Sava River. In the middle of the camp stood a two storey house, originally erected for the offices of the enterprise . . . . The screams and wails of despair and extreme suffering, the tortured outcries of the victims, broken by intermittent shooting, accompanied all my waking hours and followed me into sleep at night.

Macek noted that one of the guards assigned to watch him round the clock crossed himself each night before going to sleep. Macek pointed out the monstrosity of his actions. I asked if he was not afraid of the punishment of God. “Don’t talk to me about that,” he said, “for I am perfectly aware what is in store for me. For my past present and future deeds I shall burn in hell, but at least I shall burn for Croatia.”

Or the rhetoric of those who champion the incineration of thousands of civilians for the Greater Good:

If nuking these cities was a major U.S. war crime, illicit under international law and Church teaching, then we are put in the position of demanding a higher price in blood to salve our consciences. There are times in real life when one must commit a wrong in order to avoid an even greater wrong. These instances arise frequently in wartime. Another example: the terrorist who must be “tortured” in order to find out where the bombs are.

Jimmy, you’re right when you say that we were participating formally in evil when we dropped the bomb. Unfortunately, our participation in evil began almost four years earlier when we entered the war. This is the nature of war. There is much, much evil in it, and we do ourselves a disservice when through our well-meaning but futile efforts to mitigate its evil we prolong it and make it even worse.

 

What ties each of these stories together is perverted courage. For instance, note the sick logic at work in Himmler’s remarks: the willingness to commit murder is transmuted, in Himmler’s diabolical imagination, into a brave act of self-sacrifice. He consoles the SS soldiers by telling them they are tough men willing to do the dirty work of war. They don’t moralistically refuse to do acts that risk hell but bravely undertake the work of sinning gravely for a higher cause. They have the guts softer men lack to butcher thousands of innocent Jews and are willing to endure this hardship — the psychological trauma that goes with doing monstrous evil — for the sake of the love of country without looking for any loopholes.

Myers uses the same curious rhetoric of bravery to undergird his stirring defense of his Kermit Gosnell view of life — which also turns out to be a stirring defense of the Dr. Josef Mengele view of life. These men, like Myers, were “unafraid” to reduce millions of other, slightly older human beings to “pieces of meat.” Once again, the language of “courage” and “bravery” is deployed to describe the embrace of grave evil.

And it doesn’t stop there. The Croatian butcher likewise speaks of his monstrous evils in tones indistinguishable from Milton’s Satan — as though the filthy charnel house he helped to staff was an act of noble rebellion against an unjust God whom he had no choice but to defy, what with His simplistic ideas of “just war” that get in the way of what Needs to Be Done to Win. He speaks of his participation in slaughter as a beautiful act of patriotism that none but the bravest could undertake. Sure, he’ll go to hell for it. God is unjust! But our brave soul will spend his eternity in Hell secure in the notion that He Did the Right Thing.

This is much of a muchness with our last quotation from an American who argues (like ever so many Americans) that God asks far too much when He imposes just war criteria on us and seriously expects us to believe that not even we can directly intend the mass slaughter of innocent human life. This reader doesn’t mess around with pretenses that Hiroshima and Nagasaki weren’t violations of just war teaching. Instead, he simply declares that God is wrong, we are right, and we have to have the courage to just go ahead and do monstrous evil because it’s the Right Thing to Do, and God is a fool to say otherwise. You must “commit a wrong in order to avoid an even greater wrong.”

In every one of these passages, what stands out is the loudly trumpeted note of courage. The one advocating evil is, in his own eyes anyway, a veritable icon of bravery, standing toe to toe with an unjust and arbitrary Heaven whose foolish rules stand in the way of the War Effort, or Science, or Patriotism — the Greater Good. The one advocating monstrous evil is not a coward and a traitor to the Kingdom of God, but the Hard New Man, bravely doing what the pantywaist and the pious are too cowardly or self-righteous or behind the times to do.

If one is not in the grip of the mania firing the advocate of evil, it typically can be seen instantly that he is obviously in the wrong. So we snort at Himmler’s fears of a Jewish fifth column and his grotesque attempts to give man-hugs to the self-pitying brutes engaged in the work of slaughtering. But when one is in the grip of the mania oneself, it can often feel as though the people saying monstrous things are indeed brave: bucking the tide of bourgeois opinion to do the difficult thing that needs to be done so that (as Orwell fittingly did not say, despite the fact that it is constantly attributed to him), “We sleep peaceably in our beds at night only because rough men stand ready to do violence on our behalf.” This whole “You can’t handle the truth!” bravado, which mistakes brutality for courage, is where the devil slips in, telling us that the feeling of disgust about crimes against innocent human life is the certain sign that we are doing the Difficult but Right thing as we sin boldly.

 

To be sure, God does ask hard things of us sometimes, things that may even feel wrong, yet are not. Peter learned this when he attempted to challenge Jesus on the matter of His impending crucifixion:

From that time Jesus began to show his disciples that he must go to Jerusalem and suffer many things from the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed, and on the third day be raised. And Peter took him and began to rebuke him, saying, “God forbid, Lord! This shall never happen to you.” But he turned and said to Peter, “Get behind me, Satan! You are a hindrance to me; for you are not on the side of God, but of men.” Then Jesus told his disciples, “If any man would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. For whoever would save his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life for my sake will find it. (Mt 16:21-25)

In short, both false and true courage can feel like the same thing — much as fornication and the joys of the wedding night can feel very similar to one in the grip of rationalization. False courage, like true courage, feels as though it is calling us to do something high and difficult. And it can creep into the very holiest of social circles. C. S. Lewis, for instance, notes in his Four Loves:

It is no doubt easy enough to love the fellow-creature less and to imagine that this is happening because we are learning to love God more, when the real reason may be quite different. We may be only “mistaking the decays of nature for the increase of Grace.” Many people do not find it really difficult to hate their wives or mothers. M. Mauriac, in a fine scene, pictures the other disciples stunned and bewildered by this strange command, but not Judas. He laps it up easily.

Similarly, many a radically selfish person has managed to convince himself he was a soul dedicated to the Good of Mankind or the Love of God even as he was about the business of doing some miserable piece of self-serving filth and telling himself throughout the whole affair that the gag reflex he felt was what truly courageous people must muscle down as they defy God and conscience for the Greater Good.

If that is so, then how do we make the distinction between a radically good and radically evil act? How do we tell that one is advocating radical evil and another is advocating radical Christian charity?

 

The answer is the cross. What marks out Jesus’ radical act of courage is that He is brave in offering His own life, not some other innocent person. Conversely, if somebody is “courageously” willing to make some innocent person suffer or die, that’s your first clue that they are not courageous for the things of God.

And so, for instance, Himmler is very brave with the lives of innocent people and singularly protective of his own. Likewise, Myers does not volunteer his own body to be reduced to a piece of meat for the sake of Science, much less for the sake of a baby. He demonstrates a congenital inability to distinguish brutality from courage and regards himself as brave for, among other things, being unmoved by the thought of stabbing a defenseless baby to death with scissors. The distinction between that act and interposing one’s body between the baby and a fiend like himself is lost on a moral monster like Myers, as it is on Himmler. Like Jeffrey Dahmer, he is “unafraid” to reduce persons to meat. (And, oddly, nobody frets about his “incivility” or the effect he might have on some Jared Loughner in his class.)

In the same way, the Croatian guard is “brave” enough to slaughter innocents, but not enough to slaughter his nationalism on the cross of Christ.

And the poor confused defender of Hiroshima and Nagasaki cited above sacrifices the very possibility of justice in war on the altar of evil by simply abandoning any possibility of just war whatsoever, while still insisting on fighting that war. He writes not that bad things happen even in a just war, but that it doesn’t matter if we deliberately slaughter civilians in their beds since “our participation in evil began almost four years earlier when we entered the war. This is the nature of war.”

Now, a morally sane person can subscribe (like the Church) to the doctrine that a war is just. A morally sane person can subscribe to the doctrine that a war is unjust. A morally sane person can subscribe to the doctrine that a just war (ius ad bellum) is being fought by just or unjust means (ius in bello). But no morally sane person can subscribe to the doctrine that an unjust war being fought with unjust means is a war one is morally bound to fight, and that we must do grave evil that good will come of it. Yet this is what this reader attempts to argue by declaring any and all wars to be a “participation in evil” as though there is no such thing as just war at all. And once again, the language of courage (“There are times in real life when one must commit a wrong“) is deployed to send the signal that, when the chips are down, no matter what silly rules our God gives us through His Church, the truly moral and good thing is to do evil that good may come of it.

Against all such self-serving sophistry only the cross of Christ stands, defending not only the innocent victim of violence but the truly courageous saint (and soldier) who lays his life on the line, not merely that the strong may survive in a naked struggle for power, but that Justice may be done. It is not, as Peter found, an easy cross to bear, but is the only alternative to the false courage that steels us to do grave evil to the innocent by hardening our hearts against the plain teaching of Christ our Lord.

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.

  • dan

    “He demonstrates a congenital inability to distinguish brutality from courage and regards himself as brave for, among other things, being unmoved by the thought of stabbing a defenseless baby to death with scissors.”

    Wonder if Prof. Myer would be willing to take the scalpel from Gosnell and do the act himself? Based on the context of the comment quoted above, I think he would.

  • tom in Ohio

    You make a great point here Mark. But I think there is a problem. The examples you employ are similar to each other but not identical, and to my point of view the Hiroshima-Nagasaki one is sufficiently different to warrant its exclusion from your list. You bring it up with some regularity in positioning yourself as neither left, nor right. I know that. I submit some thoughts for your consideration.

    In war one necessarily counts cost and takes many impossibly difficult things into consideration. It takes a great deal of courage to do as Lincoln did, as Eisenhower or Churchill did, sending young men to their possible or even probable deaths. And each of them was probably tormented all their days as to whether they had done the right thing, given what the price was. I do not see Truman as any different. He was the one who signed the letters to bereaved moms and dads, not you; he was the one who met with them in Washington and even in their homes, not you;
    He was the one, not you, who was faced with the fact the entire people of Japan had been enlisted by their government to fight to the finish, to total annihilation if necessary, rather than surrender. Surely that weighs something on the just war scale.

    Using the word “courageous” to describe Truman takes on a different meaning you go back and sit where he sat, walk where he walked. I think he was courageous. Apparently, in order to make your point, which is a good one, you have decided to say he was as vile as Himmler. In placing him in the ranks of the truly vile you lose a great deal of credibility.

    No war is completely just or unjust. We simply cannot ever know enough to be entirely sure of outcomes. But abortion is always unjust. This we can know. It is not a one to one comparison.

    Purposefully attempting to eliminate an entire race, planning and executing it over years is simply in another league from the decisions made to bomb Japanese cities in 1945. The very fact that we followed up at the end of the war with significant assistance to Japan points to that difference.

    The difference is sufficiently large that I think you should not use it in your list of atrocities.

  • Ender

    Whenever someone singles out Hiroshima and Nagasaki as examples of evil acts I cannot help but wonder exactly what criteria are being used to make that determination. It isn’t simply the number of people killed or the fire bombing of Tokyo would top the list, as more civilians died in the single raid of March 9-10 than in either of the cities hit with nuclear bombs.

    Nor is it the nature of the targets themselves as Hiroshima was “a city of considerable military importance, containing Japan’s Second Army Headquarters, as well as being a communications center and storage depot.” (Wikipedia) If one wanted to castigate the destruction of a city with virtually no military significance the obvious choice would seem to be Dresden.

    I make no argument that the bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki were either just or unjust, only that their selection as paradigms of evil acts is questionable, especially in light of the way WWII was fought.

  • Rob H.

    Ender,
    Maybe Dresden and Tokyo would make excellent additions to Mark’s commentary, but excluding them in no way detracts from the appropriateness of including Hiroshima and Nagasaki. As for their military importance, here are a few others who might disagree with Wikipedia on that point:

    “the use of this barbarous weapon at Hiroshima and Nagasaki was of no material assistance in our war against Japan. The Japanese were already defeated and ready to surrender… In being the first to use it, we had adopted an ethical standard common to the barbarians of the Dark Ages. I was not taught to make war in that fashion, and wars cannot be won by destroying women and children.”
    –Admiral William Leahy, White House chief of staff and chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff

    “It wasn

  • Brian English

    “Maybe Dresden and Tokyo would make excellent additions to Mark’s commentary, but excluding them in no way detracts from the appropriateness of including Hiroshima and Nagasaki. As for their military importance, here are a few others who might disagree with Wikipedia on that point:”

    Obviously there were others in the American command who did not agree with Eisenhower, Leahy and Halsey, including, most importantly, President Truman. How do you explain that? Were Truman and those who agreed with him evil men? Were they as evil as Hitler, Himmler and Hirohito? What about the flight crews who dropped the bombs? Were they evil men?

    And it does detract from Mark’s article to include yet another discussion of the morality of the bombings (it isn’t even August). With the 38th Anniversary of Roe, the March for Life, and the house of horrors discovered in Philadelphia, this is what he comes up with?

    Are there really so many Catholics who believe that we should disregard the Just War citeria that it was necessary to include that point of view along with those of the Master of the S.S., a Croatian ethnic cleanser, and a blasphemous atheist publicity hound?

  • Ender

    Rob –

    I certainly respect the opinions expressed by the men charged with executing the war, nonetheless the claim by Adm. Leahy that Japan was ready to surrender seems refuted by evidence that they (a major part of the Japanese military) were still not ready to surrender even after the bombs had been dropped.

    In any event, that really wasn’t my point. It is rather too facile to say that bombing Hiroshima was evil without identifying what made it so and following up to the conclusion the logic leads to. If bombing Hiroshima was immoral, was it also immoral to bomb Tokyo? If it was immoral to bomb Tokyo, was it also immoral to bomb Berlin? How about Schweinfurt?

    I simply want the question addressed: what are the criteria by which one can judge the bombing of Hiroshima to be an immoral act?

  • Mark Shea

    the reader I was citing happened to be talking about them. The article is about the contrast between false and true courage, not about H and N. The quotations I mention struck me because they all have in common the strange quality of speaking of grave evil as though it is a massive act of courage. If I’d happened to have known of a defense of the firebombing of Dresden or Tokyo or London which deployed the language of bravery in order to justify the crime, I’d have mentioned it. However, I’m not aware of such a quote so I didn’t mention these examples. Doubtless readers can supply examples of such rhetoric not, merely from the history of warfare, but from all manner of human sin.

  • Mark Shea

    I didn’t say a word about Truman. The article is not about him. It is about the tendency of human beings to portray acts of grave evil (which includes the deliberate incineration of Japanese children in their beds, Jewish children in ovens, Serb children in Croatian death camps, along with the deliberate incineration of American children in abortuaries) as “courageous”.

  • Rob H.

    Ender,
    My apologies for not being more direct. I thought your question (what should the criteria be?) was a good one. I was just offering a few quotes that suggested these particular bombings were immoral based on their not being necessary for victory. IF the bombing of Hiroshima and/or Nagasaki were unnecessary, then the needless slaughter of innocent people would seem to qualify as “immoral”, no?

    Of course, this is just one possible criterion.

  • Mark Shea

    Ed Feser discusses the problem here: http://tiny.cc/onjld

  • Ender

    Mark – A valid response: the article was “about the tendency of human beings to portray acts of grave evil … as “courageous”. OK, but that still starts from the assertion that Hiroshima was a grave evil and I have asked: why was it?

    Rob – If it was believed at the time that Hiroshima was unnecessary and the loss of life was merely disregarded, then yes, it would have been evil, but Mark’s position is (I think) that it was evil even if it accomplished its stated goal of ending the war. That’s a very different claim.

    As for Ed Feser’s argument, I didn’t find it useful. He posits that the bombings involved the intentional killing of innocent civilians and reminds us that evil may never be used to accomplish a good end. Well, yeah … but why should we consider those bombings to have intentionally killed civilians and not all of the other bombings that took place? We killed civilians in St. Lo after the Normandy invasion – was that immoral too? What, other than scale, distinguishes the two incidents such that killing civilians in Hiroshima was immoral and killing them in St. Lo was not?

  • Rob H.

    “Rob – If it was believed at the time that Hiroshima was unnecessary and the loss of life was merely disregarded, then yes, it would have been evil, but Mark’s position is (I think) that it was evil even if it accomplished its stated goal of ending the war. That’s a very different claim.”– Ender

    If one accepts the position voiced by Eisenhower, Leahy, & Halsey that Hiroshima was “unnecessary” wouldn’t it logically follow that they believe the war could have been ended without dropping the bombs? That was how I understood their use of the term “unnecessary”. More importantly, not only “could” the war have been ended some other way, the war SHOULD have been ended some other way. That’s the whole point, right? Isn’t it self evident that it is evil to kill innocent people to end a war if other means are available to end the war?

  • Mark Shea

    OK, but that still starts from the assertion that Hiroshima was a grave evil and I have asked: why was it?

    CCC 2314 “Every act of war directed to the indiscriminate destruction of whole cities or vast areas with their inhabitants is a crime against God and man, which merits firm and unequivocal condemnation.”

    Seems clear to me.

  • sibyl

    As Mark said, the cross is the answer. But even for those who do not believe, one can still tell the difference. Doing something objectively wrong is never to be the courageous decision, even if it involves more personal suffering that doing the right. If we wonder, we can step back from ourselves and say, “What kind of person would do X?” What kind of person would OK the decision to wipe out women, children, disabled, and innocent civilians, to make sure that the whole enemy nation would cower at our feet?

  • Mark Shea

    We killed civilians in St. Lo after the Normandy invasion – was that immoral too?

    Dunno, since I don’t know the details of St. Lo. Did we kill them accidently while we were trying to kill enemy troops in combat or did we deliberately target civilians? If the latter, then there was no difference between that and H and N except for the number of innocent people we deliberately targeted.

    Basic Catholic teaching: You may *never* directly intend the killing of innocent human beings. Never means never. That has something to do with why people trying to rationalize disobedience to that primal principle tend to invoke the language of courage to describe themselves as “defying bourgeois conventional morals” or “making the hard choices” or “not caring what some Ivory Tower Theologian who doesn’t understand the Real World says” or, in short, “burning for Croatia”.

  • Ender

    Dunno, since I don’t know the details of St. Lo. Did we kill them accidentally while we were trying to kill enemy troops in combat or did we deliberately target civilians? If the latter, then there was no difference between that and H and N except for the number of innocent people we deliberately targeted.

    Were the civilians deliberately targeted in Hiroshima? I am unaware of that being the case; that’s why I posted the comment about the military value of the city: there were valid targets there. That’s also the point I was trying to make about the civilians killed in St. Lo. The Church recognizes that innocents will be killed in war, yet she also recognizes that it can still be a just war in spite of that.

    Was Hiroshima an act of indiscriminate destruction? Massive destruction, certainly but it doesn’t seem to have been indiscriminate. Were the 363 air raids against Berlin examples of indiscriminate destruction? I haven’t heard that argument being made and that’s why I’m pushing on this point. In terms of lives lost and destruction wrought, Hiroshima and Nagasaki were not the worst examples of the results of the Allied air campaigns. The most significant difference between those two and all the others is that their damage was inflicted by single bombs while the other damage required thousands. Morally, that’s not a significant difference.

  • Mark Shea

    Were the civilians deliberately targeted in Hiroshima?

    Yes.

  • Andy

    Was Hiroshima an act of indiscriminate destruction? Massive destruction, certainly but it doesn’t seem to have been indiscriminate.

    I posit that it’s impossible for a nuclear weapon to be anything but indiscriminate. It’s pretty much the nature of the thing.

  • Zac

    Hi Ender,

    I can understand the confusion, since there are differences between directly targeting civilians, failing to discriminate between civilian and military, and unintentionally killing civilians. In other words, it is complex, and most of us stop describing it once we determine its general moral value.

    It is wrong to directly target civilians (non-combatants), but it is also wrong to indiscriminately attack an area, thereby foreseeably killing non-combatants. It is a third kind of moral wrong to attack a legitimate target (military/combatant) knowing that a disproportionate number of non-combatants may be killed.

    Hiroshima and Nagasaki could potentially be any of these three. It really depends on the intent behind the act. Was the act targeted at civilians? Was it targeted indiscriminately with forseeable civilian deaths? Was it targeted at a military target with forseeable disproportionate civilian casualties?

    Supporters of the bombing do not agree on what the intent was, hence those of us who criticise the bombing tend to employ the range of responses.

    So, if the bomb targeted civilians directly (we want to kill civilians) then it is wrong. If it targeted indiscriminately (we don’t care who gets killed) then it is wrong. If it targeted legitimate military targets with disproportionate casualties (we don’t care how many die for the sake of this target) then it is wrong.

    I hope this shows why critics of the bombing do not seek to clarify definitively the precise nature of the evil intent.

    If I had to, I would take into account the fact that Hiroshima had not previously been bombed – suggesting lower military importance, and the fact that the bomb had been tested, with an expectation of causing massive damage to a large target area. I would also take into account the apparent expectation that if enough cities were bombed, the Japanese would surrender. ie. not that if enough military targets were bombed, the Japanese military effort would suffer – which is the more direct logic to expect in targeting military resources.

    In addition, I should point out that the debate rages (unjustly) over Hiroshima and Nagasaki because these are a) well known and b) credited with ending the war. The same cannot be said of the allied bombing campaign against German cities, nor the fire-bombing of Tokyo. Yet it is correct that there is little moral distinction between these various actions.

    I should add that ‘indiscriminate’ does indeed apply to the very nature of nuclear weapons, as Andy mentions. You might like to look at this google maps tool, which overlays the blast radius of Hiroshima onto any location. Casualty percentages for each zone of the blast radius are given at the bottom: http://www.jmichaud.com/nonukes/
    I think this demonstrates rather effectively the inability of the bomb to target military facilities with an acceptable degree of discrimination.

    Kind regards,

    Zac

  • Zac

    Hi Mark,

    I was having a discussion with a friend on the issue of courage and I think you portray this disturbing theme very well. From what I have read, fortitude is considered a virtue because it allows us to overcome obstacles to following our reason in pursuit of the good. So a genuine higher good is built-in to the definition of fortitude/courage.
    I think the rule-of-thumb you provide demonstrates that the people in your examples are not attempting to pursue the objective good, but rather to dull the outcry of their own consciences. P.Z. Myers seems to revel in his insensitive attitude, but the very fact that he hopes to shock with words demonstrates that he is not insensitive to the objective order. In other words, he knows humans are not ‘meat’, that’s how he knows the words will offend.

    Zac

  • Mark Shea

    Thanks for your always intelligent remarks. Given that the *Cathedral* was the siting target for Nagasaki, I think it’s safe to say that civilians were very intentionally targeted.

  • Bryan

    I wonder if the greatest dis-service Shea provides — that thing that will put him in Hell with me one of these days– is his insistence that people like me (torture advocate, with enthusiasm) and people like Himmler (uh, Himmler) are morally indistinguishable.

    If the gospel is really like Mark says, I don’t want any. And to borrow a phrase from another writer here, if Christianity is what Mark says it is, I’d persecute it myself. Fortunately, I suspect that a guy who can’t tell the difference between Henry VIII and George Bush (torturers, both!) probably isn’t exactly a reliable source.

  • zac

    Hi Bryan,

    it would indeed be wrong for anyone to suggest a lack of moral distinction between Himmler and the average contemporary torture proponent.
    But I don’t see Mark making this suggestion.
    Rather, he’s identifying one element in common, nothing more or less.

    To make a *complete* moral analysis of an act or of a person is actually extremely difficult and time consuming. It is also beside the point, because most of us are only interested in avoiding evil, not in grading relative evils.

    For example, who is worse: Hitler or Stalin? From the point of view of the average person it shouldn’t really matter who is worse. The point is that they were both deeply perverse and committed many evil actions. We should therefore be wary of their philosophies, attitudes, or ideologies.

    So if Mark, or anyone, draws a link between a particular philosophy or idea, and a horrible exemplar of that idea, it is not in order to make a judgement of moral equivalence, but rather to serve as a warning of where such ideas lead.

    Kind regards,

    Zac

  • Ender

    Zac –

    Thank you – finally, an answer that actually addresses the question. If, as any number of responders have said, Hiroshima is so obviously an immoral act, it should be a simple thing to provide the criteria by which it should be judged, criteria that could then be used to judge other similar actions, like the bombings of Tokyo and Berlin … and pretty much every other city that was leveled during the war.

    If you are right that the very nature of (strategic) nuclear weapons makes them too indiscriminate to use then surely that objection would apply to incendiaries used in the fire bombing of cities such as Tokyo and Dresden. In fact, if any city could be held up as the poster child for acts of wanton destruction, that city would probably be Dresden, not Hiroshima.

    Your “third kind of moral wrong” however – attacking a military target but with disproportionate civilian casualties – does raise the question about what is disproportionate. We are well removed from those days, but the people involved in the decision were surely not removed at all from the carnage of Okinawa which took 100,000 civilian lives, perhaps a third of the entire population. I don’t argue that the civilian deaths at Hiroshima weren’t disproportionate but it is surely reasonable to point out that “disproportionate” went to an entirely different level in WWII than anything we are familiar with.

    I am prepared to admit that defending Hiroshima may be the losing position but I am not prepared to call the decision so obviously immoral it needn’t be debated – or to accept it as a given that civilians were deliberately targeted. There is a great tendency for later generations, removed from the threats and fears of earlier crises, to excoriate hard decisions made in real time with the ethics of their eras. Hiroshima surely falls in that category.

  • Ellie

    There are two types of torture

    Finite : The here and now and Infinite: Eternal torture in hell

    This should be resounding all over the media.

  • Rubati

    I am just wondering, would you consider Abraham’s willingness to obey God’s command to sacrifice Isaac (read: infanticide) to be an act of authentic courage? After all, what Abraham offered to sacrifice was not his own life but his innocent son’s…

  • Fred

    the Vatican released that paper that dealt with child abuse and attempted ordination of women at the same time because both crimes contain a component of going against the very nature of the priesthood, and about half (if not more) of the world’s press said “Pope says disagreeing with Church on ordination of women is as bad as molesting children”?

    That’s what you’re doing Brian. Now I can’t speak for Mark, but I’m pretty sure he doesn’t think you’re Hitler. I’m also pretty sure he doesn’t think Former President Bush is Hitler, though I’m slightly less certain on that point.

    Parallels in the logic people use to justify sins of all magnitudes exist.

  • Zac

    Hi Ender,

    The proportionality issue is important, and is often misinterpreted. For example, the Nazis could argue that the death of 43,000 people in the Blitz was proportionate to their aim of shortening the war.
    But this is an incorrect application, because their target was not a legitimate military target. ie. their actions were already morally wrong because they targeted civilians…so the ‘proportionality’ issue does not apply.

    The same applies to a very common defense of the bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Some people argue that the bombing of the cities was proportionate to the swift end of the war (especially if Okinawa was indicative of how the main islands would resist). However this example already fails the ethical test because it targeted civilians.

    But some people argue instead that the specific military targets in Hiroshima and Nagasaki justified the deaths of all the non-combatants. (It’s important to reiterate that proportionality means a weighing of non-combatant casualties against the value of the military target itself.)
    This is not an argument I’ve seen put forward by anyone so far. For example, Nagasaki was a port city and therefore had military significance. But although people take this as justification for attacking the city, no one seems to argue that the destruction of the port was so vital in itself that it justified the killing of 60-80,000 people. Nor is it ever argued that the bombings ended the war because Japan could no longer wage war without the military resources of those two cities.

    Another problem for this view is that Hiroshima had been spared from conventional bombing. If the military targets were truly so valuable as to justify the unintended killing of 90-166,000 people, surely they would already have been targeted with conventional bombs?

    Sorry that this response is not very eloquent. It’s Australia day here, and I’m trying to think clearly after a hefty BBQ ; )

    Oh, finally, your point about incendiary bombs is correct. Relative to the circumstances, many weapons will prove too indiscriminate for use. Nuclear weapons most obviously, but incendiaries, gasses, even a shotgun in a crowded area will prove inappropriate.

    Kind regards,

    Zac

  • Brian English

    “I am prepared to admit that defending Hiroshima may be the losing position but I am not prepared to call the decision so obviously immoral it needn’t be debated – or to accept it as a given that civilians were deliberately targeted. There is a great tendency for later generations, removed from the threats and fears of earlier crises, to excoriate hard decisions made in real time with the ethics of their eras. Hiroshima surely falls in that category.”

    Since this is such a simple issue, perhaps one of the paragons of virtue posting here could cite to us a CONTEMPORARY condemnation of the bombings by the Church? I am sure that in such an obvious case of grave evil there must be dozens.

  • Brian English

    “So if Mark, or anyone, draws a link between a particular philosophy or idea, and a horrible exemplar of that idea, it is not in order to make a judgement of moral equivalence, but rather to serve as a warning of where such ideas lead.”

    And the day after the Anniversary of Roe and the March for Life, and a few days after the revelations regarding Gosnell’s house of horrors, it was urgent that we rehash this debate?

    “The same applies to a very common defense of the bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Some people argue that the bombing of the cities was proportionate to the swift end of the war (especially if Okinawa was indicative of how the main islands would resist). However this example already fails the ethical test because it targeted civilians.”

    First, if Truman’s intent had been to kill as many Japanese as possible, it is odd that he allowed leaflets to be dropped on the cities telling people to get out.

    Second, you could double-effect yourself through an invasion of Japan and end up with hundreds of thousands of dead Allied troops and millions of dead Japanese. If that is the result of your approach, doesn’t that indicate to you that maybe your approach doesn’t work here?

  • bob

    Rubati…..The story of Abraham and Isaac in the Old Testament is essentially a foreshadowing (type)pointing to the crucifiction of Christ. It is also about obedience and trust to the will of God. This is not a good analogy of false courage and infanticide.

    I try to prayer my rosary once a week on the way in to work in front of the local Planned Parenthod on the day they do abortions. I do see examples of what Mark is writing about concerning “perverse courage” in the clinic escorts and security guards in front of the abortion mill. Engaging in conversation on why they will support and protect such a gruesome place, they believe they are doing the honorable and “courageous” work of upholding the law and upholding women’s rghts. Listening to their cold explanations justifying their rationality, to me is most chilling. When you try to engage them that at its core, abortion is the ending of a developing human life, they immediately disengage as if a light switch were turned off and start pointing the finger at the protesters calling us hypocrits, uncivil,rude etc. C.S. Lewis’ Screwtape Letters and the term “diabolic ventriloquoy” comes to mind. I can’t help but seeing the “perverse courage” Mark writes about in the Croation guard also in these abortion clinic escorts.

    Good article, Mark.

  • Ender

    Arguments that the bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki were unnecessary are irrelevant to this particular discussion. If they truly weren’t needed to end the war but it was (incorrectly) believed that they were needed, this is a mistake, not a sin and that’s not what is being argued here.

    Zac, you raised the issue about the military value of (especially) Hiroshima to make the point (it seems to me) that civilians were deliberately targeted, but this is to judge the motivation of those who ordered the bombing, not the bombing itself. The question of proportionality gets complicated.

    Brian’s point is valid: there is good reason to think that our military planners believed they faced a choice between two options – invade or drop the bombs. Planning estimates for the consequences of invasion predicted casualties in staggering numbers, literally in the millions. That was option A. Option B was to drop atomic bombs and hope that their awesome destructiveness would convince the Japanese to surrender. That would come at a cost of 100,000 to 200,000 lives.

    When option A comes in at 10 times the cost of option B it is not immediately obvious why A is the preferred choice.

  • AT

    Mark.
    Not sure what the point is of all that, other than to make clever arguments.
    But I am not sure you would have written this if you had lived through any of these catastrophes. Those were obviously horrible, evil and terrible parts of history. Linking the word

  • Rob H.

    “Arguments that the bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki were unnecessary are irrelevant to this particular discussion. If they truly weren’t needed to end the war but it was (incorrectly) believed that they were needed, this is a mistake, not a sin and that’s not what is being argued here.” –Ender

    Clearly, a tactical error isn

  • Andy

    Those of us that grew up in coddled existences need to be careful making

  • Brian English

    “On July 20, 1945, under instructions from Washington, I went to the Potsdam Conference and reported there to Secretary [of War] Stimson on what I had learned from Tokyo

  • Ender

    Rob – Let’s assume that Ike et al were correct in their calculations that Japan would have surrendered before the invasion could have been launched (option C) and that it was therefore unnecessary to have used atomic weapons. OK – but that still begs the question of whether dropping the bombs was immoral regardless of whether or not they were needed.

    If using the bombs was intrinsically evil then, even if the only other option was the invasion of Japan and the subsequent deaths of 1-2 million people, nuclear weapons should not have been used. Is that your position? If not, then we’re back to the debate that has been ongoing for 60 years which turns on the military necessity of their use.

  • Mark Shea

    All this point missing is entertaining and all, but it’s, ‘ow you say? missing the point, which is that people rationalizing grave evil tend to deploy the language of courage to do the rationalizing.

    The example of the reader talking about H and N is not an example of somebody who thought H and N were (if we but understood it) really morally good. It was an example of somebody who had completely forsaken the idea that either WWII or H and N were just. He calls the whole thing “evil”–and then urges the moral obligation of “doing wrong” upon us because “There are times in real life when one must commit a wrong”. The reader isn’t interested in all the fine shades of moral distinction that folks in these comboxes are fussing over. He simply declares all war to be evil, H and N to be evil–and then says we must bravely commit evil. I don’t think all war is evil. I believe in Just War teaching. I think the Allied cause in WWII was just and that we were right to enter the war, not “participating in evil” as the reader says. (I also think we violated ius in bello on a number of occasions, but that is not germane to this article.) My reader believes all war to be amoral animal struggle in which might makes right. So he deploys the language of courage to justify this fundamentally immoral rejection of the very possibility of justice in war.

    Please try to understand the point and stay on topic all.

  • Ryan Haber

    In traditional Catholic manuals of moral theology, the distinction between intentionally committing an evil act and intentionally committing an act which may be evil is held to be a false distinction. If I do an act without concern for whether it is evil, I willingly do an act that might be evil – that is, I am willing to do evil.

    In like manner, intentionally killing an innocent civilian and killing in such a way that brings them into peril that might have been avoided are formally equivalent. In either event, I am willing to do the evil act of killing an innocent civilian. That willingness to do evil is the formal requirement for sin.

    The simple fact is that for many of us moderns, we have unwittingly raised up a new god in our hearts – if not new gods. We have erected the Nation – Germany, Japan, America, now more and more, alas The Economy or The Environment – as the Highest Good. This idolatry has paved the way for a willingness to commit whatever act is deemed “essential” to secure the well-being of that Highest Good. All the while we continue going to our churches and either tune out the preacher or (God help us) are encouraged in our idolatry by him.

    Chivalry – the individualization of the conduct of just war – is incompatible with Total War precisely because Total War will admit no rules and spare no weapons: all in the service of Total Victory, that goddess who brings glory to the Highest Good. Lying, cheating, stealing: all is fair, even crying foul. But there was a time when soldiers stopped fighting on feast days, when they knew that rape and murder were vicious even if they participated, when leadership thought to minimize the evils their armies committed rather than to accentuate them. It was godless atheists that started packing women and children into churches to burn them. Are we Christians to follow suit in our conduct of war?

    In Mexico there is an expression they use to mean, “Whatever God wants,” but the phrase, “Primero Dios,” literally means, “God first.”

  • Ryan Haber

    Just admit it then, you are a utilitarian who weighs perceived goods against perceived costs and makes a decision about whether to buy in or not. That’s fine, but it’s not Christian.

    Christians obey the law of God.

    The law of God forbids deliberately killing innocent people. People who pose no threat must not be killed deliberately. That is the law of God. It is not an interpretation, it is a commandment, the fifth of the Decalogue that God gave to Moses on Mt. Sinai.

    To use a weapon whose purpose is to kill as many people as possible, the just together with the wicked, is absolutely perverted, immoral, and impermissible. The cost of justice is immaterial. “Seek ye first the kingdom of God and its righteousness and all these things will be added unto you.” A nation committed to obeying the law of God, to trusting His will, will share in the riches that disciples doing the same thing routinely experience.

    If the same thing were done now, to America – as we can almost expect someday – who won’t be screaming bloody murder? Won’t you scream for revenge in kind? We are the only nation that has used nuclear weapons against another people, and we have never repented. What’s the difference between our innocents and theirs? Our women and theirs? Our children and theirs?

    In my experience, God teaches penance gently at first, and more brutally if need be.

  • Rob H.

    “Rob – Let’s assume that Ike et al were correct in their calculations that Japan would have surrendered before the invasion could have been launched (option C) and that it was therefore unnecessary to have used atomic weapons. OK – but that still begs the question of whether dropping the bombs was immoral regardless of whether or not they were needed. ” — Ender

    It isn’t just that “their calculations” rendered atomic weapons unnecessary, their moral outrage leads us to the same conclusion. When they throw around words like “barbarians”, “Dark Ages”, “destroying women and children”, “to kill and terrorize civilians”, etc. isn’t it clear they are referring to moral rather than just tactical issues?

    “If using the bombs was intrinsically evil then, even if the only other option was the invasion of Japan and the subsequent deaths of 1-2 million people, nuclear weapons should not have been used. Is that your position?” –Ender

    Since you asked, my position is that using the bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki was intrinsically evil because it amounts to the slaughter of innocent people that otherwise could have been avoided. Based on historical fact I completely reject your “only other option” scenario as military victory did not depend upon either option you present. However, I am open to the possibility that there could arise a scenario in which the use of atomic weapons may not necessarily be intrinsically evil. This possibility rests on a distinction that would be analagous to the difference between using a gun to kill someone in self defense versus using a gun to murder someone. Given the nature of nuclear warfare I’m not sure such a scenario even exists. In my opinion, Hiroshima and Nagasaki don’t even come close.

  • Erin Manning

    Rob writes: “However, I am open to the possibility that there could arise a scenario in which the use of atomic weapons may not necessarily be intrinsically evil.”

    Sure there could be:

    1. Zombie apocalypse, in which we know for certain a) the zombies are animated dead bodies and not bodies still containing souls (e.g., not “medical zombies), b) the population of a given city is approximately 99% zombie and c) if we do nothing, the zombies are going to spread a heck of a lot farther than this one city. Yes, the 1% innocent people in the city would be in harm’s way, but given that a lot of them are going to be actively snacked upon to death before we even get the ICBM aloft, we might have to accept their deaths as proportionate.

    2. Attack by evil robots in giant spaceships that are really like floating cities. Preferably, we would time our attacks for when the robots’ ships are over unpopulated areas, in case of shrapnel that might cause collateral damage on the ground.

    3. Unmanned asteroid hurtling toward Earth that has to be destroyed. Sure, the good effect of using the weapon would have to be weighed against the bad effect of Hollywood producing a really bad movie on the subject, but I’m pretty sure double effect allows for such, given that the movie isn’t directly caused by the nuclear weapon and is merely permitted, not desired.

    But, seriously, a scenario in which we could use a nuclear weapon in actual warfare involving real-life Earth cities populated overwhelmingly by innocent civilians? No. Not even given the modern tendency to rename civilians as “combatants” based upon the false idea that there’s really no such thing as a non-combatant in war.

  • Mark Shea

    Also, it may be that aliens have no souls, so we could nuke them too. Also, I think it may be legit to nuke the Planet of the Apes since, not being human, they might not have rational souls. Best to shoot first and ask questions later. The key, as ever, is to search for *some* loophole in which we could get away with launching a nuke. Sure, in a *perfect* world we’d be able to incinerate as many Japanese cities as we like. But in this fallen world, we are constrained by such cruel realities as “You shall not murder” getting in the way of pure consequentialism. (Hey, if we’re going to veer off topic, might as well do it with gusto). smilies/smiley.gif

  • Rex G

    My father was fought in the Pacific in WWII. From the stories I heard the Japanese were beaten but would not surrender. Island by island was taken by the U.S., each resulting in many causualties, and civilians even committed suicide to avoid capture by U.S. troops. I heard stories of mothers jumping off of cliffs with their children in their arms because they had been told that worse things would happen to them if they were captured. Now I’m not saying that the bombings were right or wrong, but the situation was not so simple as some want to make it. Where the horrors of prolonging the war worse or were the bombs worse? I see Marks point and agree with it, but I also think Hiroshima is not the best example of the point.

  • MarylandBill

    There are a few thoughts regarding the use of atomic weapons on Hiroshima and Nagasaki that have not been brought up yet.

    1. While, we can’t be certain, it appears that the timing of the dropping of the Atomic Bombs was set in order to force Japan’s surrender before the Soviet Union could enter the war. Consider the thought that the Japanese might have been forced to surrender without the specter of atomic weapons after the Soviet’s entered the war (a fact that Truman and others making the decision to drop the bomb must have included in their calculation) and it becomes clear that the use of the A-Bomb cannot have been justified until we would have known what the entry of Russia into the war would have done to the Japanese position on surrender. In addition, if they were dropped to force Japan to surrender earlier, and therefore reduce Soviet influence in the peace, they become even more unjustifiable.

    2. There has always been a false set dichotomy presented in arguing about dropping the bombs. Even assuming the entry of Russia into the war was not a done deal, the U.S. had other options short of invasion of Japan. Japan started the Pacific War because it needed resources to maintain its national goal of being a great power; the resources it could get from its then growing Chinese empire, and the resources (specifically oil) it could get by seizing the Dutch East Indies. The USA was attacked because we were not willing to let Japan expand its Chinese Empire and we would certainly have intervened had they attacked the Dutch East Indies. By 1945 however, Japan’s ability to project power had seriously been undermined. Yes a large Japanese army remained in China, but that army had effectively been isolated from Japan. The Japanese homeland was likewise cut off from its colonial empire. Unlike the United States, Japan is very poor in the natural resources that were necessary to build, maintain and operate a large military. If the United States had put Japan under blockade, Japan would not have been able to rebuild its shattered navy and likely would have been forced to surrender with in a few years anyway as their home industrial economy would have totally collapsed without access to outside resources.

  • Brian English

    “Yes a large Japanese army remained in China, but that army had effectively been isolated from Japan. The Japanese homeland was likewise cut off from its colonial empire.”

    And that large army was killing thousands of Chinese civilians every day. How do they factor into the equation?

    “Japan is very poor in the natural resources that were necessary to build, maintain and operate a large military. If the United States had put Japan under blockade, Japan would not have been able to rebuild its shattered navy and likely would have been forced to surrender with in a few years anyway as their home industrial economy would have totally collapsed without access to outside resources.”

    How many Japanese civilians would die from starvation and disease during this blockade?

  • Jon W

    to say that if Mark had lived through these horrors he would have written differently. I have no problem saying that had he himself lived through these horrors Mark’s style would be vastly different. That goes without saying. But to suggest that his moral judgment would be different is to vitiate all morality and all moral reasoning. A moral judgment one way or the other is, ipso facto, a universal statement: any rational being who was in the same situation and knew the relevant facts would be bound by conscience to make the same decision.

  • MarylandBill

    Brian:
    Yes, the Japanese Army was killing Chinese Civilians, but the Chinese and Western Allied armies in China were already beginning to turn the tide by August 1945, and cut off from the industrial centers in Japan, it would have been very hard for the Japanese Army to mount any effective offensives after the summer of 1945. And this ignores the fact that the Russians were going to enter the war and add their overwhelming military might to the war in mainland Asia.

    Further, once Japan was under blockade, I would argue that the deaths of Japanese civilians at that point were the direct responsibility of the Japanese government, as opposed to the direct responsibility of the United States with its decisions to bomb Japanese civilian centers.

    As Catholics we must remember that the ends can never justify intrinsically evil means. The notion of total war is fundamentally at odds with Catholic Just War theory.

  • Marthe L

    After reading the above, I am starting to wonder: If using a nuclear bomb is always indiscriminately destructive of civilians, and therefore a grave evil, would it also be a grave evil to continue the production of nuclear weapons, or even to continue the research aimed at producing ever more “efficient” nuclear weapons? What part of the US military spending is used for those above purposes? Would eliminating this particular type of spending be a very good way to start cutting down on government expenditures and reducing the deficit? I have been “led to believe” that US military spending is greater than the total of similar spending by all countries in the world put together. Then, how much of your tax money is being used to pursue an intrinsically evil through military spending? It is very good to be concerned about some amount of tax money getting spent for abortions and to use this as an argument to withold proposed improvements to insurance and/or access to medical care to millions of people, but I do not seem to “hear”, from my observation point up here in Canada, so many calls for a decrease in military spending. Being pro-life does not just mean protecting the unborn, I think the already born too have some rights. Just wondering…

  • Mark Shea

    Here’s the common sense of the Church re: your question.

    CCC 2315 The accumulation of arms strikes many as a paradoxically suitable way of deterring potential adversaries from war. They see it as the most effective means of ensuring peace among nations. This method of deterrence gives rise to strong moral reservations. The arms race does not ensure peace. Far from eliminating the causes of war, it risks aggravating them. Spending enormous sums to produce ever new types of weapons impedes efforts to aid needy populations; it thwarts the development of peoples. Over-armament multiplies reasons for conflict and increases the danger of escalation.

    2316 The production and the sale of arms affect the common good of nations and of the international community. Hence public authorities have the right and duty to regulate them. The short-term pursuit of private or collective interests cannot legitimate undertakings that promote violence and conflict among nations and compromise the international juridical order.

    2317 Injustice, excessive economic or social inequalities, envy, distrust, and pride raging among men and nations constantly threaten peace and cause wars. Everything done to overcome these disorders contributes to building up peace and avoiding war:

    Insofar as men are sinners, the threat of war hangs over them and will so continue until Christ comes again; but insofar as they can vanquish sin by coming together in charity, violence itself will be vanquished and these words will be fulfilled: “they shall beat their swords into plowshares, and their spears into pruning hooks; nation shall not lift up sword against nation, neither shall they learn war any more.”

  • Zac

    Hi Brian,

    “Since this is such a simple issue, perhaps one of the paragons of virtue posting here could cite to us a CONTEMPORARY condemnation of the bombings by the Church?”

    Not that the Church is renowned for rapid responses, but for what it’s worth, here’s a condemnation of the bombing by Mons. Fulton Sheen in May 1946
    http://books.google.com.au/boo…en&f=false

    “First, if Truman’s intent had been to kill as many Japanese as possible, it is odd that he allowed leaflets to be dropped on the cities telling people to get out.

    Second, you could double-effect yourself through an invasion of Japan and end up with hundreds of thousands of dead Allied troops and millions of dead Japanese. If that is the result of your approach, doesn’t that indicate to you that maybe your approach doesn’t work here? ”

    Well, I hadn’t argued that Truman wanted to kill as many Japanese as possible. In fact, if we give Truman the benefit of the doubt, he was trying to end the war killing as few people as possible. The dropping of leaflets offers controversies of its own by the way, if you’re interested in researching that aspect.

    I’m pleased you mentioned double-effect and the invasion quandary.
    I’m afraid my opinion will not satisfy you, but here it is:

    We are said to have faced a dilemma of either bombing, or invading with terrible expected casualties. Ethics rules out the first option, for reasons we have discussed. However, I think ethics would also advise us that the projected cost in human life (of soldiers and civilians) was disproportionate to the goals of invasion. In other words, both options are off the table.

    Unfortunately, this would leave no option but containment and defensive blockade of Japan. Unpalatable to say the least…but preferable to sacrificing ethics for the sake of achieving ‘ideal’ outcomes.

    Kind regards,

    Zac

  • Zac

    Hi Ender,

    “but this is to judge the motivation of those who ordered the bombing, not the bombing itself”

    Motive and intent are important parts of moral judgement. But I brought it up because it changes the moral arguments people make in defense of the bombing. Ie. Some people try to stretch the principle of double-effect which allows us to bomb important military targets even though some non-combatants may be unintentionally killed.

    The argument you’ve just given is much simpler. Option A kills up to 200,000 Japanese civilians and military, but (hopefully) ends the war. Option B is anticipated to cost at least a million lives from both sides.

    My answer (as given above to Brian) is that Option B also seems unethical. For an historical analogy, consider the thousands of soldiers slaughtered in WWI for the sake of a few meters of ground. We consider the deaths of these soldiers to be disproportionate to the fractional benefit achieved. In other words, it is wrong for a commander to order his troops into such a situation.

    Therefore, I would argue (though I realise how galling it will be to many people) that neither bombing nor invasion were ethical options. Japanese surrender did not warrant the deaths of a further million people, if Japan could instead be contained to the main islands.

    Blockade is not an ideal solution, but it isn’t our role to achieve ideal solutions at the cost of ethics. This is ‘doing evil that good may come’.

    Kind regards,

    Zac

  • AT

    “So be quiet and let those tens of thousands of victims be forgotten so we can repeat our errors as often as we please. ”

    NO, ABSOLUTELY NOT, SPEAK OUT!
    BUT SAY IT AS IT IS!
    CALL EVIL FOR WHAT IT IS: EVIL!

    ..is that more clear?

  • AT

    Some numbers:

    Loss of life from man made violence:

    Hiroshima 135,000
    Nagasaki 64,000
    http://www.atomicarchive.com/Docs/MED/med_chp10.shtml

    Iraq war 100,000
    http://www.iraqbodycount.org/

    Abortions per months in the US 100,000
    http://www.guttmacher.org/

    Evil is evil, period

  • AT
  • Fr. Terry Donahue, CC

    “Since this is such a simple issue, perhaps one of the paragons of virtue posting here could cite to us a CONTEMPORARY condemnation of the bombings by the Church?”

    “We cannot forget that your country is one of the symbols of peace, as you have just emphasized, since the cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki are a message to all our contemporaries, inviting all the earth’s peoples to learn the lessons of history and to work for peace with ever greater determination. Indeed, they remind our contemporaries of all the crimes committed during the Second World War against civilian populations, crimes and acts of true genocide which we thought were for ever in the past but are still being perpetrated in various parts of the world.”

    (John Paul II, Address to the Japanese Ambassador to the Holy See, September 11, 1999, http://www.vatican.va/holy_fat…or_en.html)

    “World War II, which liberated many and defeated tyranny but which left as a shameful legacy instances of combat, was conducted without distinction between civilian and soldier. In the decades since the bombing, some have advanced the argument that despite the horrendous magnitude of civilian suffering, these actions can be justified by the efficient end of combat it affected. But secular ethicists and moral theologians alike echo the words of the Second Vatican Council:

  • Fr. Terry Donahue, CC

    “If the consciousness of universal brotherhood truly penetrates into the hearts of men, will they still need to arm themselves to the point of becoming blind and fanatic killers of their brethren who in themselves are innocent, and of perpetrating, as a contribution to Peace, butchery of untold magnitude, as at Hiroshima on 6 August 1945?”

    (Pope Paul VI,

  • Seamus

    Were the civilians deliberately targeted in Hiroshima? I am unaware of that being the case; that’s why I posted the comment about the military value of the city: there were valid targets there.

    One good way to answer this is to ask: Suppose the bomb had, by some extraordinary means, managed to wipe out the Fifth Division and 2nd General Army Headquarters, but hadn’t killed any noncombatants. Would our leaders have said, “Wow! We never expected that, but we’re pleasantly surprised that the death of civilians, which we anticipated but did not will, didn’t come to pass after all”? Or would they have said, “Well, it’s nice that we wiped out those military targets, but we’re afraid that we didn’t kill enough Jap civilians to really put the fear of God into the Emperor and armed forces and make them surrender”? I don’t think the first answer passed the straight-face test.

  • Brian English

    “Not that the Church is renowned for rapid responses, but for what it’s worth, here’s a condemnation of the bombing by Mons. Fulton Sheen in May 1946″

    I had never read this from Archbishop Sheen before. What I have read is a discussion in his book Life is Worth Living, a collection of the commentaries from his TV show. Written seven years after the quote you found, he states, “It is indeed regrettable that the first general knowledge the world had of atomic energy was given when it wiped out a Japanese city.”

    In any event, there was no contemporaneous condemnation from the Vatican. In 1954, Pius XII gave an address where he lamented the destruction caused by nuclear weapons, but actually approved of their use in a defensive manner (apparently this is a reference to the strategy of dropping A-bombs on Soviet tank columns if West Germany was invaded).

    “Unfortunately, this would leave no option but containment and defensive blockade of Japan. Unpalatable to say the least…but preferable to sacrificing ethics for the sake of achieving ‘ideal’ outcomes.”

    But that is the basic problem. I know Elizabeth Anscombe is considered a hero by some Catholics for calling Harry Truman a mass murderer and war criminal, but her application of the doctrine of consequentialism to the bombings is far too simplistic. If your approach requires the deaths of 30-40 times more people than the approach you are condemning, you should probably rethink your approach.

  • Brian English

    “As Catholics we must remember that the ends can never justify intrinsically evil means. The notion of total war is fundamentally at odds with Catholic Just War theory.”

    But, as I indicate in my response to Zac, does a simplistic application of consequentialism work here? Is it really better to cause the deaths of 2 million people through disease and starvation?

  • AT

    “…Were the civilians deliberately targeted in Hiroshima? I am unaware of that being the case”.

    The frigin bomb was dropped down town. The Nagasaki bomb was dropped within 600 yards of the citie’s Catholic Cathedral. Look it up.

    What I find most upsetting is that, amongst US Catholics, there is almost no reckoning of the deaths from the Iraq war. The numbers are equivalent to these bombs.

    Apart from Mark

  • Brian English

    Fr. Donahue:

    The reason I asked for contemporary condemnations is that it is far too easy to condemn actions decades after they occur. The fact is, there was no clear and unequivocal condemnation by the Vatican of the bombings at or near the time they ocurred. That should tell us all something.

  • Patrick Lynch

    This statement is undiluted foolishness. See the following article, written in 1950.

    http://goo.gl/a1yDa

    Here’s one from 1963:

    http://news.google.com/newspapers?id=BpMtAAAAIBAJ&sjid=CZ4FAAAAIBAJ&pg=1647,2651366&dq=pope+nuclear+war&hl=en

    Arguing from ignorance is fairly ignorant, when facts are easily Googlable these days.

  • Patrick Lynch

    When you feel ready, you can browse hundreds of contemporary articles accounting for the Catholic Church’s opposition to nuclear weapons and criticism of the American nuclear project and it’s fruits, in just the New York Times, going back however you like.

    http://goo.gl/CAsGh

    Catholics have been taught the same things forever re: nuclear war and the value of innocent life – believing we were in the right then is to risk veering into the Americanist heresy the Pope warned us about all the way back when. Lets end evil by giving up the dream of self-justification for past acts.

  • Mark Shea

    The fact is, there was no clear and unequivocal condemnation by the Vatican of the bombings at or near the time they ocurred. That should tell us all something.

    The fact is, there was no clear and unequivocal condemnation by the apostles of slavery at or near the time they lived. That should tell us all something.

    The fact is, there was no clear and unequivocal condemnation by the apostles of abortion at or near the time they lived. That should tell us all something.

    The fact is, there was no clear and unequivocal condemnation by the apostles of polygamy at or near the time they lived. That should tell us all something.

    Fun game! You can use it to deny all sorts of magisterial developments inconvenient to your tribal political allegiances. Nifty! The cafeteria is wide open!

    Meanwhile, however, about the actual subject of my article… is anybody interested in discussing that or are we all going to continue Pavlovianly responding to the acoustic stimulus “Hiroshima and Nagasaki” with the standard issue excuses, evasions and Consequentialist talking points?

  • AT

    “tribal political allegiances”
    Correct, now days its how we want the Church to be at the service of our various agendas, not the other way around.
    The Church over the last decades suffered a “one-two” punch, first from the left, now from the right. That is why she can’t speak well. Her jaw is badly bruised. Her teeth are aching!

  • Brian English

    “Arguing from ignorance is fairly ignorant, when facts are easily Googlable these days.”

    And arguing without understanding what words mean is even worse. Do you understand what “contemporary” means? Do you have anything from August 1945? What about September?

    I am well aware that the Church now condemns the use of nuclear weapons. That is not the same thing as condemning their use in August 1945.

    It is very easy to direct self-righteous scorn at people when you would not be the one in a landing craft trying to invade Japan.

  • MarylandBill

    Brian,

    You ask:
    “But, as I indicate in my response to Zac, does a simplistic application of consequentialism work here? Is it really better to cause the deaths of 2 million people through disease and starvation?”

    There is nothing simplistic about my original point. The Church’s teaching is decidedly clear on this. You cannot justify the direct performance of evil regardless of the good that will result. In other words, if we accept that destroying inhabited cities is directly evil, then it cannot be justified even if it saved 20 million lives. It is impossible to justify directly and intentionally killing a single innocent to save 2 million people.

    This is part of the point Mark’s post about perverted courage. We look at Truman and the others who made the decision to drop the bomb, and many believe that it took moral courage to do it. In a sense it did take courage. But that doesn’t make it the morally correct decision.

  • Rob H.
  • Brian English

    “The fact is, there was no clear and unequivocal condemnation by the apostles of slavery at or near the time they lived. That should tell us all something.”

    Talk about missing the point. I am not claiming that the Church would approve of the use of nuclear weapons today.

    “Fun game! You can use it to deny all sorts of magisterial developments inconvenient to your tribal political allegiances.”

    Again, the Church’s views on the use of nuclear weapons are pretty clear. That is not what the argument is about.

    And I hardly consider Harry Truman a member of my tribe. My defense of him is based upon a dislike of labeling people as mass murders and war criminals when faced with the circumstances Truman and the American military were faced with.

    “Meanwhile, however, about the actual subject of my article… is anybody interested in discussing that”

    Well, you had a perfectly fine article going and then you felt compelled to introduce the bombings. You could not think of any other example to use?

  • Brian English

    “There is nothing simplistic about my original point. The Church’s teaching is decidedly clear on this. You cannot justify the direct performance of evil regardless of the good that will result. In other words, if we accept that destroying inhabited cities is directly evil, then it cannot be justified even if it saved 20 million lives. It is impossible to justify directly and intentionally killing a single innocent to save 2 million people.”

    But the point is, were the bombings evil in light of the alternatives?

    And by simplistic, I meant the standard consequentialism analysis being applied to the bombings. People should also be aware that Anscombe’s analysis of Truman is based upon the mistaken belief that the Japanese military was ready to surrender.

  • Zac

    Hi Brian,

    I can see where you are coming from.
    To you, blockade of Japan would be worse than the bombings, because it could potentially kill more people. (though this is surely subject to debate).

    But in only one of these scenarios are we directly and willfully responsible for killing non-combatants. This is crucial to the ethics of warfare.

    On a very simple level, if someone is trying to kill you and you defend yourself against his attack, you are not responsible for his injuries or death (assuming you act proportionally). If you feel responsible, you are ignoring your attacker’s freedom and responsibility.

    This is analogous to the ‘blockade’ example. Japan is the aggressor nation, and our proportionate defensive action is to engage it militarily, and finally to contain it on its own territories such that it no longer poses a direct threat. (this does not necessarily mean withholding basic supplies).
    If the Japanese government refuses to surrender, then the starvation of its people (again, this is only for the sake of your argument) would be entirely the government’s responsibility.

    By contrast, if we affirm the bombing out of consequentialist calculations (predicted lower death toll), then we are willfully and directly responsible for the killing of some 200,000 people, mostly non-combatant civilians.

    I think we have to take care that we recognise where our responsibility truly lies. We are only ever one side in the conflict…hence we are responsible for the moral quality of our own actions, not for the actions of our opponent.

    Kind regards,

    Zac

  • AT
  • Mark Shea

    Well, you had a perfectly fine article going and then you felt compelled to introduce the bombings. You could not think of any other example to use?

    I have explained *twice* my purpose in quoting the reader. If you can disengage, just for a second, from your pre-recorded Pavlovian responses to acoustic stimuli and pay attention to the actual purpose of the article, it would really help. If you can’t, then could you shut up, stop sucking all the oxygen out of the room with your irrelevant obsessions, and let somebody else address the actual article?

  • Brian English

    “I have explained *twice* my purpose in quoting the reader. If you can disengage, just for a second, from your pre-recorded Pavlovian responses to acoustic stimuli and pay attention to the actual purpose of the article, it would really help. If you can’t, then could you shut up, stop sucking all the oxygen out of the room with your irrelevant obsessions, and let somebody else address the actual article?”

    I did not realize I had the ability to block others from commenting. Is there some button I am hitting without realizing it?

    If this is what people want to talk about, maybe you didn’t make your point very well.

    And if we are going to talk about irrelevant obsessions, why do you feel the need to attack other Catholics in these types of articles? Was it really necessary to include that reader’s comment to make your point? Do you really think that reader was exhibiting the same characteristics as Himmler, Myers and the Croatioan ethnic cleanser?

  • c matt

    The fact is, there was no clear and unequivocal condemnation by the apostles of abortion at or near the time they lived. That should tell us all something.

    Actually, I thought that was mentioned in the Didache, which is fairly contemporary. But that is a minor quibble.

    The whole “contemporary” issue – what gives? Why is that relevant? Why would a contemporary condemnation have more validity than one done after years of reflection on the issues and away from the heat of battle? In fact, wouldn’t a non-contemporary analysis without the passions of war actually be more accurate, more developed, and frankly, closer to the moral truth of the matter? Who’s judgment about a man’s good/bad traits would you trust more – (1) the woman who is infatuated with him, (2) the man he beat out for her affections or (3) a co-worker of his for many years who has observed him in both business and social settings, but has no other particular tie to him?

  • Admin

    This thread is starting to get out of hand, and well away from the original topic. Let’s get back to the main subject and leave other discussions aside. Thanks.

  • Zac

    Hi Mark,

    Sorry for contributing to the derailing of the conversation.

    However…(assumes heroic pose)…If I did something ‘wrong’, just know that I did it in defense of the *truth*. My conscience is clear! (removes tongue from cheek).
    Actually it’s probably a case of insufficient temperance rather than false courage in my instance…

    Back on topic, you described the H&N commenter as ‘confused’, which does distinguish him from the other examples. ie. Perpetrators are in a different class from those who merely give intellectual assent after the fact.
    But the core idea is the same…laying claim to a higher morality of ‘necessity’, to which only the truly courageous can aspire.

    I recently saw “From Paris With Love” (not recommended) in which John Travolta plays the physical embodiment of the ‘necessary evil’ character, who does whatever it takes to defeat the terrorists, while his somewhat effeminate ‘by the books’ novice partner is gradually converted to the harsh realities of life. The moral of the story (unless I missed something) is that the scary aggressive man with the gun may seem violent and crazy, but there’s a reason for everything he does, and ultimately we can trust him more than we trust ourselves.

    I think this character, theme, and idea of false courage are surprisingly strong in the present culture.

    Thanks,

    Zac

  • Mark

    “The fact is, there was no clear and unequivocal condemnation by the Vatican of the bombings at or near the time they ocurred. That should tell us all something.” – Brian English

    “The fact is, there was no clear and unequivocal condemnation by the apostles of slavery (or abortion, or polygamy) at or near the time they lived. That should tell us all something. Fun game!” – Mark Shea

    I have noticed that you use the Vatican’s voice as a rock solid reason why the war in Iraq was unjust but you get very defensive and insulting when it is pointed out that the Vatican doesn’t offer that same support for other issues on your America bashing agenda.

    It’s as if you have a license to claim “heads, the Vatican’s words prove me right — tails, the lack of the Vatican’s voice proves you wrong”

    BTW, did Pope Pius XII ever officially state that our retaliation of Japan’s attack was within the “just war” theory? I’ve asked this of several people but as of yet, nobody has provided an answer.

  • Mark Shea

    Mark:

    Could you at least try to make sense? The condemnations of the use weapons of mass destruction (CCC 2314) and the condemnations of the Iraq war from Pope JPII and then-cardinal Ratzinger all issue from “the Vatican”.

    Also, could you try to actually address the point of the article?

    Zac:

    No sweat. And yeah, it seems to be a very deep-seated myth (probably partly due to the need of screenwriters to ratchet up the conflict) that it is the morally conflicted guy who is willing to do grave evil for a good cause who is the *real* hero while the person who tried to hold a consistent ethic is a Pharisee, pantywaist, or out of touch do-gooder.

  • MarylandBill

    Mark,
    You wrote:
    “I have noticed that you use the Vatican’s voice as a rock solid reason why the war in Iraq was unjust but you get very defensive and insulting when it is pointed out that the Vatican doesn’t offer that same support for other issues on your America bashing agenda.”

    Catholic teaching on war has been consistent for some time. Asking for a condemnation of civilian population centers is in some sense akin to asking the Pope to regularly condemn murder. The teaching is so clear, any such condemnation would be redundant.

  • MarylandBill

    I am going to avoid getting back to the particular historical event that has gained so much attention on this forum and instead look at the notion espoused by some here that the rejection of consequentialism.

    As I see it, this gets to a very important aspect of Mark’s point about evil often pretending to be courage. Indeed, with respect to consequentialism, our society often embraces it as the “hard choice”. We (i.e. society) see it as the hard choice to resort to torture, to bombing cities, or aborting babies.

    The Catholic Church’s teaching is pretty clear in its rejection of conequentialism. We can do evil period; no good that comes out of an evil action can justify that evil action.

    Is that teaching simplistic in light of the complexities of the moral choices we face in the world? I don’t think so. We live in a world where evil hopes to thrive in the ambiguities that consequentialism allows.

    Whats worse, I think embracing consequentialism reduces our threshold of what is and isn’t evil. I think we have a clear example of this sort thing happening with regards to IVF leading to embryonic stem cell research.

  • Brian English

    “The Catholic Church’s teaching is pretty clear in its rejection of conequentialism. We can do evil period; no good that comes out of an evil action can justify that evil action.”

    It is crystal clear. I simply don’t think that the consequentialism methodology can be applied to every moral issue. One size does not fit all.

  • MarylandBill

    Brian,
    I am not sure you wrote what you meant to write. The Church rejects consequentialism which means that there are no situations in which it can be applied to a moral issue (though one should consider the consequences of a choice, you also have to consider the ethics of the choice in and of itself).

    I would also point out that in general, in my experience, I would say that most ethicists and moral theologians are looking for a general principle that can be applied in all cases. The particulars of the situation might effect how the principle is applied, but not the principle itself. Otherwise you end up with situational ethics which frankly is about as good as no ethics at all.

  • Brian English

    “The particulars of the situation might effect how the principle is applied, but not the principle itself.”

    Exactly.

  • Mark

    “Catholic teaching on war has been consistent for some time” – MarylandBill

    I’ve heard several people suggest that retaliation against Japan was just but entering the war in Europe was not. So who’s right?

    “Also, could you try to actually address the point of the article?” Mark Shea

    Okay

    - The point of your article was to shamelessly reduce the horific tragedies of the Holocaust and abortion to mere props so as to bash the U.S. for bombing Hiroshima and Nagasaki. It was yet another excuse to poke your finger in the collective eye of those who do not share your disdain for America.

    Or maybe I’m wrong. Maybe it wasn’t irrelevant compared to actual stories in the news recently. Maybe in your neighborhood when you are out shoveling snow and ask the guy next door how he’s doing he says something like “Well Mr. Shea, I’ll tell ya, I’ve been out of work for six months, my wife is pregnant and thinks she may be laid off soon, our car is at the mechanic’s and we don’t know how we’re going to pay for the repairs — but you know what has really been eating at me?” “What’s that Joe?” “I just can’t tell you how disappointed I am with Himmler for totally bastardizing the meaning of authentic courage”

    Egypt is possibly in the midst of a revolution. Can’t wait for next week’s article about how Cloepatra loved to torture her enemies much like Dick Cheney.

  • Don L

    A million or more saints must have said this (one way or another) but, there has never on earth been done grave evil, without first giving it a coat or two of “it’s really a good thing that I do” paint, that evil men might live with their evil. It is a way of thinking that comes from the very bowles of Satan – you can be like God and decide what is good and what is evil.

    While we call it today, relativism – there is no such thing. On Judment Day, there will be no third path: sheep here -goats there, “You are either with Me or against Me.”

  • Fr. Terry Donahue, CC

    [In an earlier comment I honestly misunderstood Brian's use of the term contemporary to mean 'of the present time; modern' rather than what was intended, and implied by the context: 'occurring at the same time'. Sorry about that!

    This comment addresses the broader issue of "Obliteration Bombing", but I think it is applicable here.]

    In 1944, in a paper entitled

  • The Pilgrim

    It is wrong to directly target civilians (non-combatants), but it is also wrong to indiscriminately attack an area, thereby foreseeably killing non-combatants.

    When the workforce in a city spends its days in a munitions plant cranking out shells, bombs and rockets to be used for the wounding and killing of US soldiers, they are not “noncombatants”.

  • Fr. Terry Donahue, CC

    While it can be morally lawful to attack the munition plants of a city, it is unlawful to use weapons of mass destruction to target the city as a whole, or a large portion of it, where it is foreseen that a disproportionate number of non-combatants will be killed or severely wounded.

    Furthermore, it is incorrect to say that all city inhabitants are combatants:

    “Occasionally it is argued that modern ‘total’ warfare demands that all citizens contribute to the war effort and that consequently everyone is a combatant. The argument can hardly be sustained, for Catholic doctrine insists that those whose participation is only remote and accidental are not to be classified as combatants. In a well-documented article on

  • Fr. Terry Donahue, CC

    Current international law is even more strict on protection of non-combatants than statements from theologians in the 40s and 50s. Here are some excerpts from the Geneva Convention (Protocol I) of 1977:

  • Lucien Syme

    I agree with the principles that Mark has proposed; however, does anyone know when the Just War theory codified by the Church?

  • Mark

    Thank you for the information Fr. Donahue. BTW, do you reside in Ontario, Canada?

  • Mark Shea

    When the workforce in a city spends its days in a munitions plant cranking out shells, bombs and rockets to be used for the wounding and killing of US soldiers, they are not “noncombatants”.

    Precisely the rationale used by Osama bin Laden for attacking the World Trade Center! How good and pleasant it is when brothers dwell together in unity.

  • Fr. Terry Donahue, CC

    Lucien,

    In terms of Christian developments of Just War theory, Ambrose (4th cen.) and Augustine (4th-5th cen.) were among the earliest proponents. Aquinas (13th cen.) synthesized their ideas (and others) to present a more codified version of it in his Summa Theologica, answering the question “Whether it is always sinful to wage war?” (II-II, q40, a1, http://www.ccel.org/a/aquinas/summa/SS/SS040.html)

    Mark,

    Yes, I am currently in Ottawa, ON as the Director of Lay Formation for the Companions of the Cross (http://www.companionscross.org).

  • Lucien Syme

    Thank you for the information regarding the early development of the Just War theory and agree with its principles – Mark’s recent writings have changed my opinion regarding the morality of both the torture of enemy combatants to gain information and the use of weapons of mass destruction upon civilians.

    But exactly when did it become officially decreed or codified by the Church?

    I saw a letter of the US Bishops from 1983 and then the references in the Catechism from 1994; but cannot see any evidence of something definitive prior to that.

    If you have any source which you could direct me to I would appreciate it.

  • Cherie

    Mark Shea, reading the words “Hiroshima” and “Nagasaki” is an acoustic stimulus? Wouldn’t it be visual, or verbal?

    Also, I think I see the logic in the choice and order of quotes. First, historical major monster, then, a less large-scale but presumably famous (I’m afraid I’m not familiar) monster, then, an unnamed, more common type of monster, and finally, someone we don’t think of as a monster at all, who has not even committed the act being discussed- yet the same “false courage” is being expressed by all of them. I found the last example necessary. Without it, this is an article about “those monsters out there;” with it, it calls us to comb our own thoughts and words for similar monstrosities.

  • Fr. Terry Donahue, CC

    Lucien,

    Just War theory has several aspects to it, so different aspects have been addressed in different Magisterial documents. I am unaware of a systematic codification of just war theory (i.e. a list of conditions for just war, as seen in the Catechism of the Catholic Church) or solemn decree or definition in earlier Magisterial documents. Catholics are thus called to

  • Aengus O’Shaughnessy

    One of your best articles yet!
    Also. . . Why is everyone so determined to downplay the atrocities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki? Sometimes it seems that more people worship the god of war than the One True God.

  • Mark Shea

    Not everyone, just those committed to certain neo-conservative myths about World War II as the icon of Just Warfare and the notion that America is not subject to the ravages of original sin. The immense level of sophistry undertaken to square this war crime with the circle of the bloody obvious teaching of Holy Church is a wonder to behold. People without these American nationalistic commitments tend to react as you do–much as a visitor to an asylum has little trouble noticing that the patients are sick.

  • Lucien Syme

    Do you think one issue for many people, who hold that the bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki was justifiable, is the false notion that you either agree with all of America

  • Geoff

    Bravo, Mark! Simply excellent. God bless you and grant you many happy years. Never stop fighting this fight for hearts and souls! I see this exact debate coming to a head lately and I see it coming between conservative Catholics. I makes me sad to see that orthodox Catholics are a smaller subset of conservative Catholics than I had hoped, but the Lord is victorious! Thank you for what you do, this is important work, Mark. God bless.

  • sleepy

    ender, you said:

    Your “third kind of moral wrong” however – attacking a military target but with disproportionate civilian casualties – does raise the question about what is disproportionate. We are well removed from those days, but the people involved in the decision were surely not removed at all from the carnage of Okinawa which took 100,000 civilian lives, perhaps a third of the entire population. I don’t argue that the civilian deaths at Hiroshima weren’t disproportionate but it is surely reasonable to point out that “disproportionate” went to an entirely different level in WWII than anything we are familiar with.

    they were all disproportionate… didnt GOD agree that if there were 10 innocent people in sodom and gomorrah HE would spare them?

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