Thursday, November 04, 2010

Catholic Geographers and the Global War on Terrorism

As I prepare for Afghanistan I will sometimes be asked how can I justify helping out the military (even indirectly through development work) with my Catholic faith.  I usually answer with stating it would be uncharitable for me not to use my geography skills to help my neighbor. 

Archbishop Charles Chaput of Denver recently gave a speech but how Catholicism and a moral military knighthood co-exist.  From his speech:

I want to offer you just four quick points tonight. Here's the first. Military service is a vocation, not simply a profession.  
The word “vocation” comes from the Latin word vocare, which means to call. In Christian belief, God created each of us for a purpose. He calls each of us by name to some form of service. No higher purpose exists than protecting other people, especially the weak and defenseless. This is why the Church, despite her historic resistance to war and armed violence, has held for many centuries that military service is not just “acceptable.” It can also be much more than that. When lived with a spirit of integrity, restraint and justice, military service is virtuous. It's ennobling because – at its best – military service expresses the greatest of all virtues: charity; a sacrificial love for people and things outside and more important than oneself. It flows from something unique in the human heart: a willingness to place one's own life in harm's way for the sake of others. 
The great Russian Christian writer Vladimir Solovyov once said that to defend peaceful men, “the guardian angels of humanity mixed the clay [of the earth] with copper and iron and created the soldier.”    And until the spirit of malice brought into the world by Cain disappears from human hearts, the soldier “will be a good and not an evil.” (i) He expressed in a poetic way what the Church teaches and believes. And you should strive to embody this vision in your own service.
The archbishop further discusses how the solider needs to be moral.  As I did in Iraq, I will make sure that every action I do and cause will be morally good.

Finally, I feel the war itself is currently morally justifiable when one considers the actions of the whole al Qaeda-network and similar groups including the Pakistani-funded terrorist armies.  The Catechism of the Catholic Church states the following on the only possible justification of war:

2309 The strict conditions for legitimate defense by military force require rigorous consideration. The gravity of such a decision makes it subject to rigorous conditions of moral legitimacy. At one and the same time:
- the damage inflicted by the aggressor on the nation or community of nations must be lasting, grave, and certain;
- all other means of putting an end to it must have been shown to be impractical or ineffective;
- there must be serious prospects of success;
- the use of arms must not produce evils and disorders graver than the evil to be eliminated. The power of modem means of destruction weighs very heavily in evaluating this condition.
These are the traditional elements enumerated in what is called the "just war" doctrine.  The evaluation of these conditions for moral legitimacy belongs to the prudential judgment of those who have responsibility for the common good.
 So I will go to Afghanistan to do geography in order to build a better Afghanistan and hopefully entice most of the enemy to lay down their arms in order to build a better world for everyone.

1 comment:

smeeko said...

That was very nicely stated.
We have had the blessing and pleasure to meet Chaput. He baptized our youngest son and we have had dinner together. He is a great leader for our suffering church and he needs our prayers for strength.