Preparing for the Day of Reflection last Saturday gave me some information I want to share with you. We are well aware that the early church embraced the nonviolence of Jesus until 313 when Constantine and the empire recognized the church. In 313, you could not be a soldier if you were a Christian. One hundred years later, you could not be a soldier unless you were a Christian. The cross morphed into the sword.
People who want to refute the nonviolence of the early Christians claim that they eschewed military service because they would have to honor and sacrifice to idols. Reading the writings of the early founders, it is clear that Christians did not want to participate in the military because they saw that it was against the nonviolent teachings of Jesus. â€œLove your enemies and pray for those who persecute you.â€ The founders and the early councils ordered long periods away from communion (e. g. 10 years) for those who had killed in battle.
The really scary thing is how the just war theory, which was designed to ameliorate the horrors of war, soon morphed into the holy war theory. My own observation is that the more we got into philosophical defenses of the faith, the more we got away from basic Gospel values. We end up with Crusadesâ€”holy war. Holy war takes on a whole new set of principles. God is on our side. God assures us victory. No holds are barred. It is all right to kill those who oppose the â€œfaith.â€
Catherine of Siena, a doctor of the Church, urged Christians to stop fighting one another and to go off and fight the infidels. Bernard of Clairveaux preached a crusade and spoke of heavenly rewards for those who died in battle [Sounds like jihad!]. Bernard also saw death for the infidels as being good for them. Pope Urban II led his own army. How did we get so immersed in empire?
We also have the conquistadors. They did not discover the â€œnew world,â€ they conquered it. The Spanish made sure that they brought priests on the expeditions so they could convert the indigenous peoples. Bartoleme de las Casas was one of the lone figures pleading for humane treatment of the indigenous peoples.
Finally, we had the holy wars at home. War was waged on Jews and other nonbelievers in the inquisitions. Numerous people were killed in the name of Christ.
Maybe, just maybe, with the statements of recent popes and bishopsâ€™ conferences, we are seeing the beginning of a return to the Gospel of Nonviolence. The American Catholic bishops still recognize two approaches to warâ€”nonviolence and the just war theory. Martin Luther King has warned us that it is â€œnonviolence or nonexistence.â€
These are the conditions for waging â€œjust war:â€
Jus ad bellum
ï‚§ Just causeâ€”only use force to correct a grave evil, that is aggression or massive violation of the basic rights of entire populations
ï‚§ Comparative Justiceâ€”injustice suffered by one party must significantly outweigh that suffered by the other
ï‚§ Legitimate Authorityâ€”duly constituted public authorities
ï‚§ Right Intentionâ€”force may be used only in a truly just cause and solely for that purpose
ï‚§ Probability of Successâ€”arms may not be used in a futile cause or where disproportionate measures are required to ensure success
ï‚§ Proportionalityâ€”overall destruction expected from the use of force must be outweighed by the good to be achieved
ï‚§ Last Resortâ€”only after all peaceful alternatives have been used
Jus in bellum
ï‚§ Noncombatant immunityâ€”not the object of direct action, must take steps to minimize indirect harm
ï‚§ Proportionalityâ€”Use no more force than is necessary to achieve military objectives
ï‚§ Right Intentionâ€”even amid conflict politicians and military leaders must strive for peace with justice
Jus post bellum
ï‚§ Just terminationâ€”negotiate conditional surrender
ï‚§ Restitutionâ€”victor must repair damage done
[I think it ironic that the program changed my bullets into question marks.]
The question is whether any one has ever applied the principles before going to war, while engaged in war, and after the war. A bigger question is whether the conditions can be met in this day and age. In the last century, 42 million soldiers died in war. The civilian deaths outnumbered the military deaths. Sixty two million civilians died in wars. We killed many innocent civilians when we unleashed the first weapons of mass destruction on the civilian populations of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Our so-called smart weapons arenâ€™t really very smart! I disagree with the bishops support of â€œjust warâ€â€”a great oxymoron. They should reassess their position in the light of the realities of modern politics and modern warfare.
Our current morass in Iraq never has met these conditions. Even more important, we have heard the rhetoric of holy war. â€œAxis of evil.â€ â€œCrusade.â€ God is on our side! We must bring democracy to the world. That is our sacred responsibility.
Let us continue to work ardently for the peace of Christâ€”the peace which only Christ can give. Let us bring the imperial church back to its roots in the nonviolence of Jesus.
Joan and I will be in Ireland for three weeks. We plan to meet with peacemakers in Northern Ireland to learn more about peacemaking. Pray for our safe return and that we will learn more about making peace.