War’s Legitimate Purpose is Peace in Justice

September 15, 2016

What Popes, Saints, Doctors and Theologians Think Regarding the Lawfulness of War

The pugnacious and warlike manifestation of the medieval spirit, as well as the militant character of the Church, may amaze the radicals of contemporary pacifism, absolutely intolerant of any and every type of war, for to their ears the expressions “holy war” and “just war” sound radically contradictory.

It will not be superfluous to place at their disposition various texts of Roman Pontiffs and leading Catholic thinkers, so that they may see that no such contradiction exists.

1. War’s Legitimate Purpose is Peace in Justice

According to the entry “Paix et Guerre” in the Dictionnaire Apologétique de la Foi Catholique, the teaching of Saint Augustine regarding peace and war can be condensed into four topics.

…the teaching of Saint Augustine regarding peace and war can be condensed into four topics.

First of all, there are wars that are just. These are the wars that attempt to repress a censurable enterprise on the part of an adversary.

But war should be considered an extreme remedy to which one resorts only after having ascertained the evident impossibility of otherwise safeguarding the legitimate right. Even if just, war in fact causes so many and such terrible sufferings—mala tam magna, tam horrenda, tam saeva—that one can only resign oneself to it through an imperious duty.

The legitimate goal of war is not precisely the victory, with all the satisfactions this entails. Rather, it is peace in justice, the durable reestablishment of a public order in which each thing would be restored to its rightful place….

The sufferings of war constitute one of the punishments for sin on this earth…

Finally, the sufferings of war constitute one of the punishments for sin on this earth. Even when defeat humiliates those who believed themselves in the right, this painful test must be seen as the design of God for punishing and purifying the people of faults for which they must admit their guilt. (Yves de la Brière [Paris: Gabriel Beauchesne Editeur, 1926], Vol. 3, col. 1260.

Nobility Book

Plinio Corrêa de Oliveira, Nobility and Analogous Traditional Elites in the Allocutions of Pius XII: A Theme Illuminating American Social History (York, Penn.: The American Society for the Defense of Tradition, Family, and Property, 1993), Documents XI, p. 513.

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