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Written Word > Articles & Commentaries > March 2011 > The Libya Situation in Light of the Catholic Just War Tradition
Current rating: 5 (7 ratings)
Tony Ke*****y
Well, Fr. Barron I have to say I am disappointed that you neglected to speak to the need to defend the helpless. The helpless human beings being faced with slaughter at the hands of a wicked, brutal, dictator. Where does this "Catholic Just War" come from anyway? Since when has the Church been experts on when and when not to go to war?? I got to say your philosophy on this issue seems to me to be completely off base. Should the world no act at all when human beings are facing such crisis, simply because it does not meet the 5 points you outlined above? I don't think so and thank God that Our leader including Obama, Harper, etc. are not so close minded to be boxed in like this. Let me remind you that shortly after the invasion of Iraq, mass graves were found through out the land. This will not be the case in Libya, I hope. Weather or not the American admin or Nato (not all about American administration) know the answer to some of your opening questions, one thing is clear, they acted to protect innocent lives and succeeded. That should be enough reason and you should not need me to point that out.
Thanks very much
3/30/2011 1:25:56 PM
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Father after your exhortation of the non-violence of Martin Luther King and your implication that Christ like love is non-violent I am disappointed that you fail to mention Pope John Paul II's and Benedict XVI's outright opposition to war. You should have mentioned in your article the Words of then Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger "today we should be asking ourselves if it is still licit to admit the very existence of a "just war". Most American Catholics cannot stomach non-violence, especially those who think they love Pope John Paul II, but why do they always omit his stance on war?!
3/31/2011 12:41:57 PM
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The two preceding comments just go to show the diversity of human response to war, a good level headed discussion of the Just War Theory.
4/2/2011 1:26:27 PM
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The magesterium is not one view among many. Pope John Paul's teaching on the evils of war, the maturity of rejecting military service and offering non-violent resistance based upon a theology of the Cross is being ignored by many in the Church! We need people faithful to the magesterium to start proclaiming the truth on this issue.
4/3/2011 4:25:14 PM
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Not every utterance of every Pope bears the full weight of the Magisterium. Pope John Paul II's statements about war are important and should not be dismissed lightly as simply one man's opinion. however, it is not binding upon Catholics. A person can disent from JPII's position and remain a true and faithfull Catholic in full communion with the Church and obedience to the Migisterium.
4/25/2011 1:55:09 PM
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There has been something bothering me for a while now about Father Barron's evaluation of the US and now NATO led mission in Libya, but I haven't quite been able to put my finger on it until now. According to the case set forth by Father Barron, the international military intervention in Libya fails the Augustinian "Just War" test. However, it is clear that, had outside forces not intervened in the Libyan Civil War, a bloodbath would have been unleashed by Khaddafy's forces upon the people of Benghazi and any others who dared to resist his brutal regime, how could it be more just to allow the slaughter of innocent civilians than to use limited force against combatants to prevent a massacre? I would respectfully suggest that the problem here is that Father Barron is misapplying the "just War" test.

If my neighbor comes home after a night of drinking and gets into an argument with his wife, hurling even the foulest of epithets at her, I may have a moral obligation to intervene and castigate him for his behavior or suggest that he sleep it off, etc..., but I would clearly not be justified if I were to knock on his door and then punch him in the nose.

If, however, the verbal abuse were followed by the sounds of physical violence, I would certainly be justified in using whatever minimum, necessary and proportionate force to defend his victim and compel him to cease his assault upon his wife. It would clearly be absurd if my neighbor were then to object that I had unjustly resorted to force against him, yet this is essentially the line of reasoning being used against intervention in Libya.

The moment at which the just war analysis rightly applied was at the outset of the conflict, at the moment Khaddafy unleashed his military against the Libyan people. From that point onward, a state of war has existed. Had Khaddafy not attacked civilian protesters and the US and our allies declared a "no-fly zone" and attacked Libya simply because the regime was oppressive and undemocratic, our actions would have been unjust and excessive. We would have been responding to verbal abuse with a punch in the nose, but such was not the case here. The airstrikes carried out by US and NATO forces cannot be said to have initiated a war, the intervention was and is a measured response to an unjust war already underway; it was and is a just defense of innocent victims against imminent massacre.

Augustinian just war principles are properly applied to the party initiating or substantially escalating the scale of violence. The intervention of international forces did not initiate the conflict and because it was a proportionate response intended to mitigate the scope and scale of violence unleashed by the Khaddafy regime against its own people, neither can it be deemed a substantial escalation of violence.
4/26/2011 12:37:58 AM
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Several things come to mind when I read this article. Clearly, one could articulate that some of the above writers were more than harsh. I can see some of the thought process at work, knowing humanity's disappointing record with warfare, as does the Church, hence the development of the Just War Theory by the Church for the benefit of political leaders (not for the Church herself, especially in light of no defensive armies for the Papacy nor any further calls for Crusade). Certainly after having read “The Priority of Christ”, I have gained another window into the mind of the author, who admits the necessity of force on behalf of the good of society, but only narrowly. This is welcome position given the idealism of the Church, which many common persons do not agree with, either in argument or behavior. And certainly there is an allowance of such disagreement within the Church, in spite of the Fathers’ insistence for non-violence; “While the Church exhorts civil authorities to seek peace, not war, and to exercise discretion and mercy in imposing punishment on criminals, it may still be permissible to take up arms to repel an aggressor or to have recourse to capital punishment. There may be a legitimate diversity of opinion even among Catholics about waging war and applying the death penalty, but not however with regard to abortion and euthanasia.” (Cardinal J. Ratzinger, 2004).
In light of the tolerance of such opinion, there is an opportunity for dialogue on this issue. I too tend to hesitate on the restriction of force on behalf of genocide victims, but are we facing this with Libya? It appears to be a civil war, not genocide (as in the case of Nazi Germany or perhaps in Rwanda, or even Iraq); does the Just War Theory articulate a good and lawful position for interfering in such a circumstance? Moreover, who are the innocent victims in Libya? Or are they merely lumped in with the violent rebels? Do the rebels even have a justified position from which to launch such a rebellion? Don’t the nation’s leaders have an obligation to resolve rebellions, which are dangerous to a nation’s health? So, at what point does it necessitate outside interference? I think these questions are exactly why Fr. Barron would have civic leaders narrowly interpret the Just War Theory, in spite of the, perhaps, more egregious cases aforementioned in parenthesis. Though, his articulation is still not a prescription, but a wise suggestion in light of the Church’s preference not only for individual humans seeking peace in their souls but also for nations.
Certainly Qaddafi is a totalitarian dictator, but was the case of his apparently unjustified violence presented before the United States, as it was in the case of Iraq, to evaluate the intelligence reports, the media reports, and any analysis of that regime? I recall that a declaration of war was never made, nor any congressional resolution authorizing any warring action. Therefore, is Obama even legitimately allowed to engage in such an action, knowing that the War Powers Act only allows the President to legally act on “police action” grounds where a declaration of war is not immediately feasible? Clearly it was feasible and it was circumvented, and leads one to wonder whether this action was justified since power in the U.S. is centralized first in the Congress (the embodiment of the People), not the President.
Further, we have a suggestion of comparing warfare between nations and conflict between neighbors; a dangerous comparison considering that far more factors are at work in the exchange between nations than neighbors. Even so, the ideal of a peaceful person is far more likely and also should be the greatest suggestion of the Church, since Jesus works primarily within relationships, not structures such as nations. And humans have far less of a sense about conflict and how to navigate it appropriately in these more recent times where we interact less and less with our very neighbors personally. We rely too heavily on our government and our fanciful infotainment news stations to instruct us when conflict is appropriate, when well-trained and well-formed human beings would know in their very consciences.
We should not be so quick to damn Fr. Barron for his analysis. For to do so, means we fall into the trap of the World. Rather, we should have both a somber and joyous outlook (just as we would have when we approach the sacrificial and loving nature of the Mass) on the opportunity to evaluate the use of force and violence in situations that have become apparently lacking in the goodness of God. It is an opportunity also to evaluate our lives in its peacefulness with Christ. Certainly Jesus had righteous anger, to which we should appeal when we act to cease injustice, but neither did he condemn and fail to lovingly challenge his detractors. Similarly, we should pursue such a course.
Lastly, I think that in light of modern warfare and the technologies that have become central to its effort, a review of Just War Theory is appropriate so that, just as Thomistic Philosophy is being reconsidered, so too should a good theory be re-applied to this recent context. The Church should invite its academic theologians, not necessarily its seminarian theologians, to consider how to approach the difficult world in which we inhabit, both in light of international warfare and intranational policing.
5/1/2011 7:13:20 PM
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Why should we concern ourselves about the opinions of muslims? They are the source of most of the terrorist actions in the world, for 60 years. They have made themselves, consiously, the enemies of all civilization, especially Christendom. Their god is a false god. Terrorists as a minority only? No. They all know what is going on within their ranks and they do nothing. Suicide bombings. *****oridectomies. The stoning of women. The hatred and oppression of women. They tacitly approve, just like the Germans did during the reign of Hitler. They stand in the face of evil and do nothing, and therefore are guilty of it. If we don't stop them now your great-grandchildren will be fighting them on your streets.
7/18/2011 11:48:06 AM
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Marvin C.
What if the rebels were not wanting western style freedoms? Say they were still suffering abuse and fighting against a tyrant. Would the hope of a people friendly regime to replace the old make a difference in how we are justifying this war? Would their innocense still have the power to call us to war if they weren't seeking familiarity with us?
7/19/2011 1:32:02 AM
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Kevin Mombourquette
Brothers and Sisters
(from The New Jerusalem Bible
Mark 13:7)

"When you hear of wars and rumours of wars, do not be alarmed; this is something that must happen...
Does it truly matter to anyone what definition of a "Just War" we adopt?
Will it change God's plans?
Pray Pray Pray to our Blessed Mother and to the Sacred Heart of our Lord Jesus Christ to ease the plight of the innocents. Isn't that what matters now that the bombs are falling?
7/28/2011 1:04:39 AM
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