Sunday, August 06, 2006

On Soft Pacifism by Archbishop O'Brien

Archbishop Edwin O'Brien is head of the Archdiocese for Military Service in the United States. He wrote the following:

“Soft Pacifism”
What follows is not about Iraq.
It is about several thousand angry protestors recently besieging the gates of Fort Benning, Georgia.
It is about some Ivy League schools that want to ban ROTC from their campuses.
It is about far too many Catholic high schools refusing to let military recruiters into their buildings.
It is about …”soft pacifism.”
Recently, I took part in a colloquium sponsored jointly by the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, Notre Dame and Georgetown Universities, entitled, “The Ethics of War After 9/11 and Iraq.”
It was a very profitable day-long session that included several bishops as well as professionals from academia and the military. It could have been a brief discussion with all going home after voting unanimously, “War is not the answer, therefore there should be no more war.” A beautiful dream…but a dream.
Unfortunately, our world is more complicated than that, as St. Augustine realized in the 5th century. We have not realized the City of God, yet, where we can presume everyone’s goodness and the perfection of institutions. Rather we are in the City of Man where rapacious power tends to brutalize and enslave the weak. For Augustine, and for Aquinas and all mainline Christian moralists, the virtue of justice sometimes requires “benevolent severity,” the use of force to stop and/or prevent unjust aggression, whether on the street corner, in Kosovo or Kuwait.
A strong concern was voiced by several ethicists teaching on Catholic campuses: many of our ROTC members are uncertain in reconciling their Faith with their military profession. That “soft pacifism” can also be discovered in our “Catholic elite.”
The Catechism of the Catholic Church reflects on our just war tradition to state that every possible means should be employed to avoid taking up arms.
“However, as long as the danger of war persists and there is no international authority with the necessary competence and power, governments cannot be denied the right of lawful self-defense, once all peace efforts have failed” (#2308)

Such decisions are ultimately left “to the prudential judgment of those who have responsibility for the common good.” Therefore, the Catechism (and the Second Vatican Council) declares that public authority can rightly oblige its citizens to take part in national self-defense.
“Those who are sworn to serve this county in the armed forces are servants of the security and freedom of nations. They carry out their duty honorably, they truly contribute to the common good of the nation and the maintenance of peace” (CCC 2310)
The just war principle permits and limits the use of justifiable force. It needs conscientious, principled military members to interpret it and carry it out.
We should encourage our young people to see the military as a noble vocation, demanding great self-sacrifice in the service of peace.
We should esteem that service and support their sacrifice, and not fall victim to the simplistic sentiments of a “soft pacifism.”
“The doctrine that war is always a greater evil seems to imply a materialist ethic, a belief that death and pain are the greatest evils. But I do not think they are. I think the suppression of a higher religion by a lower, or even a higher secular culture by a lower, a much greater evil…. The question is whether war is the greatest evil in the world, so that any state of affairs, which might result from submission, is certainly preferable. And I do not see any really cogent argument for this view.”
C.S. Lewis

“War is an ugly thing, but not the ugliest of things. The person who has nothing for which he is willing to fight, nothing more important than his own personal safety, is a miserable creature and has no chance of being free unless made and held so by the exertions of better men than he.”
J.S. Mill


Of course, this set the Pax Christi bozos heads spining. Take a look at this editorial from the National Catholic Distorter.
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