Whither the Just War?: From March 24, 2003

September 11th raised new questions about what constitutes a just war, especially in an age of terrorism. If U.S. leaders knew about the attacks on Sept. 10, would they be justified in taking lethal action? In the aftermath of 9/11 critics complained that just-war principles restricted the options open to policy makers and military planners. As Drew Christiansen wrote in 2003:

After Sept. 11, moralists of the permissive school—as I call them for their willingness to justify most government policies—reasoned that the war on terror warranted disregard of what they termed the “limiting principles” among the ad bellum rules, norms like last resort and proportionality, in favor of the “legitimating” ones, like just cause and proper authority.

As the United States prepared to invade Iraq, the Vatican reiterated its commitment to the just war tradition and voiced its opposition to the idea of launching war to preempt attack.

From the point of view of Catholic just-war teaching, preventive war is a dangerous innovation. If the distinction between aggression and defensive war is blurred, then the world is threatened with a war of all against all. In Rome, Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, dismissed the notion. Preventive war, he said, “does not appear in the Catechism of the Catholic Church.

Read "Whither the 'Just War'?"

Don't miss the best from America

Sign up for our Newsletter to get the Jesuit perspective on news, faith and culture.

The latest from america

“To the Bone,” which recently premiered on Netflix, tells the story of 20-year-old Ellen (Lily Collins), who is living with anorexia nervosa.
Karen RossJuly 21, 2017
The distinction between the disciplines of theological work and how these function in our common life is necessary.
What is it about habits and cassocks that capture the imagination of even secular audiences?
Ashley McKinlessJuly 21, 2017
Why Ron Hansen will never read the Gospels the same.
Ron HansenJuly 20, 2017