Press Clip Source: Foreign Policy
Date: May 18, 2016
Written by: Maria J. Stephan
Read original article: Here.
Can the Catholic Church put an end to centuries of sanctioning war, and start promoting peace instead?
April, at the invitation of the Vatican, some 85 theologians, priests, bishops, religious sisters, and nonviolent activists (including representatives of the RECONCILE Peace Institute, Kairos Palestine, and the American Friends Service Committee) gathered at a modest retreat house on the outskirts of Rome with an unprecedented agenda: to challenge the Catholic Church’s doctrine of “just war.”
Developed in the fifth century A.D. by St. Augustine, the doctrine empowers rulers to wage war only as a last resort to confront grave wrongs. As he wrote: “Peace should be the object of your desire; war should be waged only as a necessity.” Later, the Summa Theologica, written by St. Thomas Aquinas in the 1260s and 1270s, clarified that war could only be waged by a properly instituted authority like the state, that it could not occur for purposes of self-gain, and that attaining peace must be its central aim.
Though the Catholic Church’s “just war” doctrine has been modified over the centuries — accounting for things like new technologies and the changing nature of warfare — its basic principles remain the same. As the 1992 Catechism of the Catholic Church describes, in order for the church to sanction engaging in a war, “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 [the conflict] must have been shown to be impractical or ineffective; there must be serious prospects of success; [and] the use of arms must not produce evils and disorders graver than the evil to be eliminated.”