Pope Pius XII said on August 24, 1939, at the beginning of the Second World War, “Nothing is lost with peace, everything may be with war.”
Gaudium et Spes, one of the documents of Vatican II said, “Men in so far as they are sinners are, and will always be, under the threat of war until the coming of Christ; but in so far as they succeed, united in love, in defeating sin, they will also defeat violence.” (GS 78,6)
The Catechism of the Catholic Church teaches that nations have the right to legitimate self-defense including warfare as a last resort after all other means have been exhausted to prevent death and destruction of the nation’s populace, and as long as the means used in war are proportional to the aggression shown by the enemy. Civilians must be given every possible protection from the effects of war. Wanton destruction of persons or property is not permissible.
The Catechism is clear also, as was the late Holy Father, John Paul II, that in this day and age, war is rarely morally justifiable. He told us clearly that the war in Iraq was not a just war.
I have said to several people in recent years that I am only inches away from being opposed to all war. I see no sense in it. Nothing noble. Nothing of good, only evil.
I say I am inches away from the pacifist position because in all honesty, I think I would resort to lethal violence if someone in fact were to threatened the lives of my family….. I suspect I would pull the trigger if someone were about to kill my wife or other family members. I do not say this proudly, only admitting what I suspect my response would be.
I do not judge anyone who has fought in war. I know combat veterans. I have treated combat veterans from WWII, Korean Conflict, Vietnam and the Gulf Wars. These are men who were put in situations we cannot imagine, (unless you too have been in the front lines or in the jungles/deserts). I have only respect for them and their service.
Recently, a good acquaintance of mine, a police officer, had to shoot a man point blank. Knowing this good officer, I have only respect for him. I cannot say I would have done any differently if put in that situation.
I just have a very difficult time believing Jesus would pick up arms to kill someone or be a participant in war or be one who would resort to lethal violence to solve any problem.
I think Pius XII ultimately is right – nothing is lost with peace, everything may be with war. The Vatican Council was right – war is the consequence of sin which only the saving presence of Jesus can heal.
God help us. Make us instruments of your peace!