Just Peace…

By FAN Executive Director, Stephen Schneck, PhD


This morning, National Catholic Reporter, published my assessment of the Trump administration assassination of Qassem Suliemani, along with similar assessments by noted Catholic theologians. For reasons of space, the focus of analysis in the piece was whether military action could be called “just” according the church’s so-called just war teachings. My conclusion was that not only was the assassination unjustifiable, it was immoral.

Focusing on just war teachings, though, can lead us to overlook something much more important – peace.

Since St. John XXIII’s papacy, just war teachings have been de-emphasized in Church teachings. Emerging is a Christlike emphasis on peace, replacing the casuistry justifying any military actions. St. Paul VI at the United Nations in 1965 cried “No more war, war never again.” St. John Paul II not only repeated Paul VI’s cry for peace many times, he admonished President George W. Bush in a message ahead of that administration’s pre-emptive attack on Iraq, advising that God was not on the side of the United States. Pope Benedict XVI, even questioned if it was “still licit to admit the very existence of a ‘just war?'” Pope Francis at Hiroshima in November, 2019, argued that “Violence is not the cure for our broken world” and, just this week warned after the Suleimani assassination that “War brings only death and destruction.”

As these recent pontiffs signal, the Catholic Church is increasingly a peace church – a church which never justifies war. This should give us pause. If peace is the only justification, then surely we must look at military forces in a different way.

If you’ve not had a chance to see the recent movie A Hidden Life, I recommend it. The movie traces the heroic martyrdom of Bl. Franz Jägerstätter. An Austrian and a Secular Franciscan, Jägerstätter refused military service when called up to serve in a war he thought was unjust. For that conscientious objection he was guillotined by the Nazis in 1943. In 2007, he was declared a martyr for his faith by Pope Benedict XVI and was beatified. His feast day is May 21st.

Published in: on January 13, 2020 at 11:41 am  Comments (1)  
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