Pope Benedict XVI on the Iraq War

The position of the newly-elected Pope Benedict XVI on the Iraq war could not be clearer:

“Is the war that has been announced against Iraq a just war? ‘All I can do is invite you to read the Catechism,’ Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger replied with a mischievous grin, ‘and the conclusion seems obvious to me…’ For the guardian of Catholic orthodoxy, the obvious conclusion is that the military intervention that is taking shape ‘has no moral justification’ (September 20, interview on the Italian national news program). The Catechism, Ratzinger explained, does not embrace a pacifist position a priori; indeed, it admits the possibility of a ‘just war’ for reasons of defense. But it sets a number of very strict and reasonable conditions: there must be a proper proportion between the evil to be rooted out and the means employed. In short, if in order to defend a value (in this case, national security) greater damage is caused (civilian victims, destabilization of the Middle East, with its accompanying risks of increased terrorism), then recourse to force is no longer justified. In light of these criteria, Ratzinger refuses to grant the moral status of just war to the military operation against Saddam Hussein. The Prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith added another consideration: ‘Decisions like this should be made by the community of nations, by the UN, and not by an individual power.'”

I like the part about the “mischievous grin.”

Long live Benedict XVI, champion of peace.

9 thoughts on “Pope Benedict XVI on the Iraq War”

  1. Good comment. It’s important to note that this Catechism is new, from the 1990s, and that Cardinal Ratzinger and Pope John Paul II played an important role in its creation. That may explain the grin.

    Even for a non-Catholic, the entire section beginning Non Occides, “Thou shalt not kill,” is impressive. But this section has not sat well with the American Roman Catholig right wing. For these theological advocates of invading Iraq, the failure to limit war, the inattention to conduct, the terrible punishments for the defeated, and the “high level of artificiality” are inconsequential. What matters is the “pre-Westphalian” (Jean Bethke Elshtain’s term) nostalgia -– note the echo of “prelapsarian” — bliss of an era when state borders were at best advisory and invasion to set things right was an easy thing, or at least, easily embarked upon. That is why Elshtain regrets the modern “presumption of state sovereignty”; George Weigel, the loss of the “classic” just war tradition; and James Turner Johnson the “great loss” of just war “as it was.” One man’s “humanitarian intervention” becomes another’s Thirty Years War.

    For this group, the Peace of Westphalia that brought that war to an end was a theological disaster. Pope Innocent X called it “null, void, invalid, iniquitous, unjust, damnable, reprobate, inane, empty of meaning and effect for all time.”

    One big problem these folks have with the new Catechism is that it respects “in bello” considerations (what happens in war). That, they seem to believe, is a betrayal of the old “ad bellum” considerations (what justified going to war). Of course, those old considerations in the Golden Age of Just War basically allowed princes 1250-1650 to commit horrible carnage.

    For these eminent people, Karl Rove may have been a higher authority than any Pope: Richard John “Neuhaus chose to base his analysis not on the [WMD] report itself but on a heavily redacted and deceptively interpreted version … provided … by Karl Rove’s White House deputy, Peter Wehner.”

    Damon Linker, The Theocons. Secular America Under Siege (New York: Doubleday, 2006), 137. See also:
    WMD’s and the Iraq War, by Deal Hudson. April 17, 2007 http://catholicjustwar.blogspot.com/2007_04_01_archive.html.


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