In 2003, the Bush administration sent Ambassador Jim Nicholson to the Vatican to get approval for the invasion of Iraq on the grounds that it was a “preventative war.” The Vatican answered with a firm, “No.”
This excellent series of short videos explaining St. Augustine’s Just War Theory brought back memories of moral reasoning at my Catholic High School, where even the chemistry teacher encouraged such questions as: “Is it wrong to steal bread if you are starving?” (No, human life trumps stealing.)
For the first 300 years of Christianity, there was no controversy, since Christians refused violence even if faced with death. When the emperor Constantine converted to Christianity, a problem arose. How the heck could Christianity be the state religion of a militaristic empire? Constantine himself refused to be baptized until he was on his death bed because as emperor of Rome, he knew he would be engaged in killing people.
If we can imagine a continuum with militarism on one end and pacifism on the other, most people probably occupy the bulge in the middle. War? Maybe, sometimes. Militarism, or the glorification of war without regard for motive, means or morality, is evil. No question. Yet the US, a supposedly Christian nation, is pretty far over toward the wicked end of that continuum.
Catholic theologians grappled with this and came up with the Just War Doctrine-under what conditions, if any, is war acceptable? I encourage you to watch the short videos, but in the end Jesus’ rule works: Treat others the way you want to be treated.
Under what conditions is it OK to invade another country militarily?
Well, under what conditions is it OK for a foreign nation to invade your country militarily?
There’s your answer.