Doctrine Of War Made Easy

Gustave Dore', "Godfrey enters Jerusalem"

I have found here an excerpt from an excellent Moral Theology course. The work has both imprimatur and nihil obstat and comes – crucially – from times largely not polluted from false theology and “new times/new men/new rules” illusions, the safest indication of the heresy of Modernism.

If you take the time to read the entire piece – which, if you ask me, you should do as these questions pop up again and again in international relationships, in the media, and even at the pub – you will understand both the reasonableness and orthodoxy of this script, and the scandal that it would cause to the modern generation of wannabe pacifists; many of them, alas, clergymen.

I will proceed to mention some of the points more in conflict with modern “peace worshiping” thinking. Again, I suggest that the piece is read and understood in its entirety.

1. There is just war and unjust war.

2. A just war can be an offensive war, and still be just. It can even be a preventive war, and still be just.

3. Bits and pieces from the Gospel cannot be taken as justification for a pacifist agenda.

4. When the evil of toleration is worse than the evil of war, the evil of war can be chosen (1386).

5. To wage war a country doesn’t have to be entirely on the right side, but its right must be strongly prevalent. It’s not that the Crusades would have been illegitimate just because Christians might have had their faults.

6. War may be waged in defence of a weaker nation, attacked (say: Korea war, Vietnam war) (1390)

7. It is not allowed to wage war just to export Christianity. It is allowed to wage war to defend Christianity and Christians. “No war ever had a more legitimate cause than the Crusades, which were undertaken to defend the Christian religion against the unspeakable atrocities of infidels” (1391)

8. It extreme cases, though, war can be waged to put an end to unspeakable atrocities, like cannibalism or human sacrifice (1391)

9. It is lawful to wage war to bring peace and prosperity to uncivilised populations constantly at war with each other. It is not lawful, though, to attack an organised and peaceful country for the sake of colonial expansion. Note here the laudable use of the politically incorrect word “uncivilised”.

10. It is immoral to fight to obtain a stalemate. The only morally justified war is the war fought to win.

11. Sacred (or neutral, I add) buildings are legitimate military targets, if used for military operation. Points in case: German snipers on French tower bells; Iraqi rebels shooting from the roof of hospitals; Hamas fighters hiding in kindergartens.

12. Collateral damage is explicitly allowed (1406, 1410). “[..] it is lawful to bombard the fortifications, arsenals, munition works, and barracks of a town, to sink passenger liners that are carrying arms or stores to the enemy, to cut off food supplies from a town or country in order to starve out its troops, although these measures will entail the deaths of some civilians as well as of combatants“. However, every effort must be made to minimise these casualties.

13. “According to natural law, it is lawful to kill or wound the enemy in battle, or to starve him by blockade, just as it is lawful in self-defense to kill or wound an unjust aggressor”. This is interesting as a blockade will in practice almost never only affect combatants. The typical sieges of past ages come to mind; or the Napoleonic “Continental blockade”; or the possible (and never put in practice) blockade of Japan in 1945.

14. Reprisal is allowed under certain circumstances. “For example, if the enemy, contrary to agreement, uses poison gas in warfare, it is lawful to use poison gas against him”; but not if this is opposed to natural law: “if the enemy murders the civil population, this does not justify one in murdering enemy citizens who are in one’s power” 1417).

15. Si vis pacem, para bellum. “Reasonable preparedness is not only lawful, but a duty of the state to its own people”. (1426). This must be accompanied by a factual effort to preserve peace (1427).

There is only one article in the extremely clear and well formulated exposition which in my eyes requires further comment: article 1400, which examines the “modern world” and states that in the present circumstances only the need for survival can justify war, and the delegation of sovereign powers to declare war to supra national organisation (say: NATO, UNO) is a step which helps prevent war.

This is clearly said in view of the conditions of the times (1958), when “war” was -wrongly- largely perceived as “nuclear war” or “world war” at the very least, as clearly referenced in the words “enormous destruction of modern war”. It is absolutely clear that a relatively minor controversy (say: Italy’s claims on Istria) does not justify the potential risk of a nuclear holocaust, or of mass bombardments.

Fifty years later, we can safely say that “modern war” is in nothing different from “ancient war”; that, if anything, modern wars are more and more similar to the wars of past centuries; that the typical war scenario of nowadays doesn’t comprise mass bombardments, much less nuclear holocausts, but rather a series of intermittent, small-scale engagements with a diffused enemy either using guerrilla tactics, or operating in small units. Afghanistan, Iraq after the end of the main military operations, Lebanon 2006, Libya 2011 all follow this pattern, and it is now not uncommon for a Western country like the United Kingdom to be employed in one or two conflict stages at the same time, as it was at the time of the British Empire, without anyone fearing world wars or nuclear confrontations.

It is, though, a weakness of the analysis to identify “modern war” with “enormous destruction”. The equation was never true other than in the popular imagination, and in the Fifties many local conflicts were ongoing that didn’t justify the equation at all. To speak to the British readers, only during 1956 the British Army was involved in three military campaigns: in Kenya against the Mau-Mau, in Cyprus against the marxist guerrilla, and in the Suez campaign; mind, I might be forgetting something. War has always been a much more diffuse affair than the pacifist rhetoric wants you to believe.

My suggestion is to read this brilliant piece of moral theology; but at the same time, to always be extremely cautious every time you get the suggestion that “modern times” would require to……  change the rules. If humanity had changed, Christ would be past “best before” date.

Men don’t change, and God’s rules don’t change either.


Posted on June 24, 2011, in Catholicism and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 15 Comments.

  1. Powerful post. I particularly like 4, 5, 7 and 13..

  2. Thanks Chrstomicro.

    13. surprised even me, as I thought that methods of warfare that indiscriminately punish all the population (including non-combatants) should be avoided, but then I reflected that, if this had been the case, siege warfare would have been not allowed in itself; which seems very unrealistic.

    The rest of the excerpt has another powerful dose of political incorrectness, paired with an astonishing amount of good old common sense and, of course, Christian charity.

    It is astonishing to see how much wisdom has been wilfully ignored after V II, to run after the popularity of the easy slogans.


  3. I love the pic of Godfrey by Dore. I believe it was Godfrey who was asked about the secret to his great strength (as compared to other men). He replied “I am strong because I am chaste!”. As much as modern historians like to portray the crusaders as barbarians, they were a people filled with faith. Many sold or mortgaged what they had to finance their journey to liberate the Holy Land from the yoke of the Mohammedans.

  4. I hope no one, with all due respect to our esteemed editor, will read this with the view that it represents the official teaching of the Catholic Church. May I say that, as a right-wing traditoinalist Catholic? What this “theology” is, if one noted the imprimatur of the notorious Cardinal Spellman, is an apology for the heresy of Americanism and an attempt to whitewash the crimes committed by Americans in the three previous wars they were engaged in. It is disgusting and it is wrong. For an accurate view of authentic teach teaching, I recommend the very readable “Neo-Conned” edited by the distinguished Catholic journalist and military man, Lt Cmdr John Sharpe. There you will see all this Spellmannish nonsense refuted by the real teachings of the Church.

    Note well its endorsement of collateral damage, it’s endorsement of the “legality” of bombing ancient sites (like Monte Cassino?), its endorsement of the starvation of non-combatants, etc. This is not just war dogma; this is the mindset of bloodthirsty Soviet murderers.

    I would seriously hope that our editor, who I esteem greatly, will re-think this position.

    • Schmenz,

      if with “editor” you mean me, you’ll be disappointed.

      The endorsement of collateral damage is, and always has been, part of warfare. When the Crusaders put their siege on Jerusalem, innocent civilians were as much affected as the soldiers; but the same can, of course, be said of every other siege.

      Monte Cassino is not endorsed by what he writes, as Monte Cassino was – when first bombed – deprived of military significance and not used by the Wehrmacht for military pursposes. Had Monte Cassino been used by the Wehrmacht, say, for firing guns on the valley below, of course the bombardment would have been justified.

      On Spellmann, you will note that he had all the full esteem of Pope Pius XII, who was extremely fast in making him bishop just a short time after being made Pope, and even made him Cardinal just a few years later, in 1946.

      If Spellman was good enough for Pope Pius XII he is good enough for me, for sure.


  5. Mundabor, Bugnini was also good enough for Pope Pius XII! It was John XXIII who banished him (only to be sadly returned by Paul VI).

    • Shane,

      you are talking of what Bugnini did after Pope Pius XII’s dead, so that Pope Pius could certainly not express his disapproval.

      Come to that, Pope Pius XII had a great esteem for Pope Paul VI. You see how people can prove not at the height of the expectations.

      But this here is different: The Spellman whom Pacelli liked is the very same Spellman that Schmenz criticises.


  6. Mundabor, yes but not exclusively. Bugnini was already doing damage before the council: the simplification of the Ritus (codified in the 62 Missal) and the travesty of the reformed Holy Week.

    • Shane,

      you certainly can’t compare the organic modifications of 1955 and 1962 with what happened during the Council. I wouldn’t call them “damage” and I have never criticised Bugnini for them, nor do I think that they opened the door for the Novus ordo in any way. I’d personally have preferred that the modifications of the Holy Week in 1955 had not taken place, but I can’t see any evil intent at work.

      Many people are excellent before they become evil. Bugnini having later become a sort of real-life Saruman (I am exaggerating here; how much, I don’t know…) doesn’t mean in my eyes that we must see everything he did before in a negative light.


  7. Dear Mundabor:

    I think, my good friend, that you are very much like I once was with regard to these things. I was once a superpatriotic American who could not conceive of my country ever being in the wrong. But I know different now. The document that you quote was intended as a whitewashing of the atrocities committed by Americans and the Allies in the second world war which included but were not limited to Dresden, Hiroshima and Nagasaki. As such all of us true-blue Americans breathed a sigh of relief when the Spellman “just war” document was published. But the forgotten element in all this was the very inconvenient teaching of, among others, Thomas Aquinas, who would without question have condemned the actions of the beliigerents in those wars had he been alive. Even though gunpowder wasn’t invented when Aquinas wrote (let alone the unspeakable weaponry now available) the principles he stated are very up to date. Please do acquaint yourself with his thoughts.

    Regarding Cardinal Spellman…it is possible that, being a European, you might not be aware of some of the actions of this man. That is understandable and certainly forgiveable. But let me tell you: he was a villain through and through, and his sorry career can be easily studied now thanks to the internet. He was a liberal who cozied up to the Wall Street money interests, the various US presidents who were in power when he reigned and the media. He was an American FIRST, and a Churchman second. And if you will permit me to offer a bit of history it would not be a good idea to assume that every prelate approved by Pius XII was a good man. I think a very cursory look at some of the men he placed in posiitions of authority make that case better than I could.

    Lastly, there is Spellman and the queer problem. I’m afraid he was one of the early enablers of the homo mafia. Don’t forget: the poofs were already riddling such orders as the Jesuits in the late 1920s and 30s. Father Leonard Feeney was already warning his Jesuit superiors of this problem as early as 1936. Now Spellman protected some of them, and if you want a concise overview of how he did that you will find it in Randy Engel’s well-researched book, “The Rite of Sodomy”. It makes for awful reading, but it can teach us a little of what was going on in the mind of Spellman and others.

    You and all your readers (myself included!) are fighting the same fight. Certainly we wont agree on every little point about this or that. But we must always be careful not to step into the manure, so to speak. Spellman is not worth defending, nor is his twisted view of just war doctrine.

    • Dear Schmenz,

      thank you for your reasoned answer.

      I am not American. What you call being “patriotic”, I call recognising what a blessing the Unites States are for the freedom (even religious freedom) of us all in Europe. Without the US, we in Europe would now be, more likely than not, singing the “International”. I never forget this.

      As an Italian citizen, I am part of those who were bombed (my mother, who was a little child at the time, got a shock that lasted for decades), invaded and, to an extent, humiliated. I have no inclination in minimising any error. I am not even able to play any videogame without taking the part of the Axis. I think that Montecassino was a war crime. But when I look at the bigger picture, I still see an amazing country. An amazing country. By the by, Italians are not new to atrocities and war crimes, either.

      If you read the “war” entry of the Catholic Encyclopedia, you’ll find the same concepts expressed by the text mentioned by me, apart that the CE seems rather harsher at times and is far less readable and organised. The CE is from 1911, Spellmann couldn’t have influenced it. I have also stumbled upon other descriptions of the doctrine of war (I obviously don’t keep notes), and I think that the exposition I linked to is simply excellent.

      This also clears, I hope, the question of Spellmann. Apart what I have told yesterday ( and which would be too boring to repeat, and by which I stay), I found the script excellent in its own right. I am very much of the opinion that the extensors of the Catholic Encyclopedia would have aprroved the work. I’m rather sure it is also not something that Spellman invented after Pius XII’s death, out of the blue, to please his (laudable) patriotism.

      As to the infamous accusations that you echo, they are the weapon of choice of the homo mafia we both despise and I don’t give them a second of attention.

      If you want to read about manure, wait for my next blog post (scheduled to appear within the next half hour) and you’ll have a real example.


  8. schmenz, can I have your opinion on Cardinal Cushing? I’ve always quite liked the man.

  9. Dear Mundabor,

    There was a very good reason why Pope Leo XIII condemned “Americanism” and, apart from the good things done by the united States, Leo was worried about the idea that Churchmen in America were more worried about being good Americans than being good Churchmen. And he was well aware that for all its vaunted principles America was founded on a Calvinist, Deist and Masonic mindset. This is not to cast aspersions on my family and friends and the many good people who live here. Far from it. It is only meant to remind readers that this country was founded on dangerously false and anti-Catholic ideas (google the “Know Nothings” info for an interesting background). And when you start on a flase premise you will ultimately end up with bad legislation. Just look at who now disgraces the White House.

    As far as the Just War doctrine goes, I believe we are on safer ground with Aquinas than with mid-20th century interpreters of it.

    The Spellman information did not come from pro-fag sources. I hope you don’t imagine for a moment that I give the slightest credence to homosexuals and their weird “insights”. No, it came from, primarily, the very astute traditional Catholic journalist Randy Engel who did amazing research on this sordid subject and collected it in a book called “The Rite of Sodomy”. It does not make for very pleasant reading. But the truth is the truth is the truth, as they say. I am only offering you the opportunity of perusing the solid documentation which you can find in her book.

    • Thanks Schmenz,

      there’s no land without faults, and if we go and look at the origins, then not even the Roman Empire (born, in the ultimate analysis, from a fratricide) can be saved.

      As to the “sordid subject”, I will believe it when the matter is seen as such by the Church and not the subject of investigative books on one who must have had many enemies.


  10. Dear Shane,

    It’s hard for me to give a solid opinion of Cardinal Cushing. You are probably aware that he once received a veiled rebuke from Pius XII when he (Cushing) was trying to water down a rather basic Catholic dogma. He was also far too close to the Kennedy mafia, in my opinion. Then there is his rather sad back-peddling on the issue of contraception which you can read more about here:

    Other than that I really cannot say.

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