Tag Archives: conflict

U.S. air strikes and Church teaching on war, peace

September 13, 2013

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 St. Joan of Arc followed God's direction as she entered battle. Photo/dbking. Licensed under Creative Commons

Whether or not she studied just war theory, St. Joan of Arc followed God’s direction as she entered battle. Photo/dbking. Licensed under Creative Commons

God only knows if the U.S. will launch a military strike against Syria, but it looks like the threat has been averted for now.

As negotiations aimed at convincing Syria to surrender its chemical weapons continue, Catholics may be asking what the Church teaches about an attack. Would it be justified?

Our Holy Father, Pope Francis, has spoken quite a bit on the subject of war. At last week’s prayer vigil for peace in Syria, he said:

  …look upon your brother’s sorrow, and do not add to it, stay your hand, rebuild the harmony that has been shattered; and all this not by conflict but by encounter! May the noise of weapons cease! War always marks the failure of peace, it is always a defeat for humanity. Let the words of Pope Paul VI resound again: ‘No more one against the other, no more, never! … war never again, never again war!’

‘Never again war’ probably would be most people’s desire, but are there times when an armed conflict is morally permissible such as in the case of self-defense or to avoid a greater evil?

Conditions for Just War

The Church holds that there are strict conditions requiring rigorous consideration for legitimate defense by military force. The Catechism states, “the gravity of such a decision makes it subject to rigorous conditions of moral legitimacy.” (CCC 2309)

The conditions are laid out in the Catechism as part of just war theory, developed by St. Augustine and later by St. Thomas Aquinas. According to this theory about acts of war, at one and the same time:

  • the damage inflicted by the aggressor on the nation or community of        nations must be lasting, grave, and certain;
  • all other means of putting an end to it must have been shown to be          impractical or ineffective;
  • there must be serious prospects of success;
  • the use of arms must not produce evils and disorders graver than the evil to be eliminated. The power of modem means of destruction weighs very heavily in evaluating this condition. (CCC 2309)

According to the Catechism, those with responsibility for the common good in their “prudential judgment” are to evaluate these conditions.

Resolve conflicts together

Since the US government’s potential action would not be for its own defense and because it could act together with other nations, the Church says that such international or regional organizations “should be in a position to work together to resolve conflicts and promote peace, re-establishing relationships of mutual trust that make recourse to war unthinkable,” according to the Compendium of the Social Doctrine of the Church. 

The best outcome of this crisis would be for our leaders to continue their current talks and reach a peaceful solution. If they exhaust that possibility, hopefully they will follow the tenets of just war theory in making any decision on the matter.

At Vatican II the Church Fathers left no doubt about their hopes regarding war:

 Insofar as men are sinners, the threat of war hangs over them and will so continue until the coming of Christ; but insofar as they can vanquish sin by coming together in charity, violence itself will be vanquished and they will make these words come true: “They shall beat their swords into ploughshares, and their spears into pruning hooks; nation shall not lift up sword against nation, neither shall they learn war any more.” (Gaudium et Spes 78)

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Conflict boils over in novel about post-Vatican II parish life

June 16, 2008

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“Waiting for Mozart,”
by Charles Pilon


A page-turning novel because of the drama in the conflict, yet not exactly bestseller quality?

Interesting characters, but sometimes quasi-believable stereotypes?

Spot-on lessons for life, yet propaganda-filled?

The questions were the aftertaste from furiously reading Chuck Pilon’s “Waiting for Mozart.”

It’s a good novel, if you judge by the fact that you just have to keep reading to find out how the conflict is going to end between the pastor and the parish council at fictional St. Mary Parish in fictional Mapleton, Minn.

But the getting there isn’t smooth.

I’m certain there is a parish somewhere where disagreements are unknown, but I’ll bet everyone who has ever been involved with a parish council – or run up against seemingly unreasonable leadership in any setting – will both recognize and empathize with the people caught up in St. Mary’s tempest.

Pilon’s captured the flavor of some of that in the post-Vatican Council II church. Since he formerly served as a priest, I’m sure that he’s writing in part from real-life experiences.

Yet the jagged edges of the writing, the dialogue that just doesn’t sound like any real person speaks, are distracting, from a literary critique point of view. I’d have loved to have read this book after a tougher editor got a hold of the text.

For contrast, think of the crisp repartee in the play “Mass Appeal,” for example, superb writing on a similar subject matter.

As delicately as it is worded, there’s propaganda on these pages, and maybe enough to anger Catholics on several sides of the celibate male priesthood concept. Pilon has an archbishop character predict that, “When the time is right, the Holy Father will make the change in a way that will re-introduce the idea and the practice of having a married clergy. Eventually that will include women.”

That kind of statement would surely earn the darts of one segment of the church, but then the character quickly adds, “That’s my opinion. I think it’s coming, but the Church isn’t ready for it. The people aren’t ready.” And that will just as surely tick off another segment. The permanent diaconate takes a shot as well.

But this is a novel, after all, and it deserves to be read as a novel. The propaganda isn’t hidden, it’s right out there in the open.

And the lessons Pilon shares are worth absorbing, such as:

  • “Sometimes the wrapping is as important as what’s in the package….Commitment and being right aren’t the only important things. You’ve got to reach the listener. It’s possible to always be right and never be heard.”
  • “We’ve got to keep in mind that the really crucial issues, even in today’s church, are few in number. Not many that a guy would want to die for. I don’t have to have an answer for everything.”
  • “The only day worth living is the day I do something to bring people together.”
  • “Be hard on the problem, go easy on the people involved.”
  • “When you’re in the heat of things, it’s hard to remember that war almost never brings peace. You forget that you can’t be a reformer if you think in terms of them and us. That way, everyone loses; nobody finds the Grail. You get fixed on final, forever-like answers. You write the last chapters when the story is still unfolding.”

So, despite it’s lack of perfection, “Waiting for Mozart” is worthy of print and worthy of reading both by the leaders of the church and the People of God, if only so that some of the novel’s lessons enter into those contentious times in church life. — bz

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