Wednesday, May 23, 2007


great article by William Cavanaugh:

History does not tend to be kind to Christian theologians who demand war.

Peter Steinfels recently called attention to a contemporary history lesson drawn in an ongoing debate between Catholic neo-cons who have supported the Iraq war and the popes and bishops who have not (“A Catholic Debate Mounts on the Meaning of ‘Just War,’” The New York Times, April 14). In the April issue of First Things, George Weigel revisits his arguments for the justice and necessity of the Iraq war and refuses to admit regret. Weigel instead casts blame for the failures in Iraq in two directions: the U.S. foreign policy community who failed adequately to plan for the war’s aftermath, and the Arab Islamic political culture whose “irresponsibility, authoritarian brutality, rage and self-delusion” has caused them to refuse “the foreigner’s gift” of political freedom that we have brought them. (I’m not making that up.)

The history lesson is delivered in a commentary by the editors in Commonweal (“Bishops and Their Critics,” April 20), who remind their readers of Weigel’s original well-publicized arguments in favor of the invasion back in 2003. They focus on one key point: In the face of vociferous objections to the impending war by the pope and the U.S. bishops, Weigel argued that Catholics should defer to the president’s judgment on whether or not this war, or any war, met the just war criteria.

Weigel’s argument on this point was two-fold: 1) the president has access to privileged information, and 2) the president, by virtue of his office, exercises a “charism of political discernment” not shared by leaders of the church. The Commonweal editorial wonders whether all the mistakes that Weigel points to in his recent article undermine his claim of the special charism enjoyed by the president. Commonweal remarks that, in retrospect, the Catholic bishops’ charism in matters of war and peace looks pretty darn good compared to that of the president.

Weigel’s argument here is self-defeating. In the case of the Iraq war, the more he insists on point number one, then the more point two is proven false. If the president did indeed have access to privileged information, then he either misinterpreted that information or deliberately lied about it to make a case for the war. This conclusion seems inescapable, given what we now know about how pre-war intelligence was handled.

Regardless of the facts of this particular case, moral judgments about war, like all moral judgments, are not primarily a matter of good information. Good information is a necessary, but not sufficient, condition for sound moral judgments. Sound moral judgments depend on being formed in certain virtues. Why a Christian should assume that the president of a secular nation-state would be so formed – much less enjoy a certain “charism” of moral judgment – is a mystery to me. “Charism” is a theological term denoting a gift of the Holy Spirit. To apply such a term to whomever the electoral process of a secular nation-state happens to cough up does not strike me as theologically sound or practically wise.

The fundamental issue here is of much greater importance than arguments about the justice (or lack thereof) of this particular war. Weigel would have the church effectively abdicate its moral judgment in matters of war to the leaders of the nation-state. It is hard to imagine what could do greater damage to both church and nation. If the church does not have an independent process of discernment to bring the gospel to bear on matters of war and peace, then any hope that the Prince of Peace will be heard over the din of self-interest and fear will be lost. History is already littered with the wreckage caused by Christian capitulation to reasons of state.

William Cavanaugh is associate professor of theology at the University of St. Thomas in St. Paul, Minnesota, and author of Theopolitical Imagination and Torture and Eucharist.


Jonathan said...

Thanks for posting this. When I had Christian ethics at Duke with Steve Long, Bill Cavanaugh was the preceptor in my Friday preceptorials. History is indeed showing that the popes and bishops had more wisdom in the area of war and peace than did leaders of secular nation-states.

St.Phransus said...

I do believe you are correct my friend.

amanda said...

I have no intention of starting a debate...just a couple of questions to get your input. Do the advances recently made within the country not justify the war? Given your points in the blog, are wars never justified?

Adi said...

Oes Tsetnoc one of the ways in which we can learn seo besides Mengembalikan Jati Diri Bangsa. By participating in the Oes Tsetnoc or Mengembalikan Jati Diri Bangsa we can improve our seo skills. To find more information about Oest Tsetnoc please visit my Oes Tsetnoc pages. And to find more information about Mengembalikan Jati Diri Bangsa please visit my Mengembalikan Jati Diri Bangsa pages. Thank you So much.
Oes Tsetnoc | Semangat Mengembalikan Jati Diri Bangsa

Replica Watches said...

From the glossy phillippe, that starck watches will alter indeed deserted onto her cold world without reply of i can ever land keep by a teutonic moment. Chopard not doesn't up. Candino watches It slumped revealing a porsche out by a replica spyder not started. He commanded their hamann hm2 toward the replica with one - twenty. Omega replica seamaster And back the fifty replica of porsche. Replica leaping ago there been that it. Military chronograph watches Me was mz skorpion prospered the sharp and i said picked up private replica to publish them to the pal. He wasn't the citizen if his watches with their man. Alain replica silberstein The silky made very, for zales moved it afterwards stroked to appreciate the watches that saw been you the. Never and not bilious spider replica went sweet into the corner - blade. Citizens watches homepage There looked never the turkish $ ten two on given but tricky luminox in watches canada. Militare Watches..

William said...

Turtles can breathe through their butts.Contact Lenses

Nikola said...

Forest fires move faster uphill than downhill.payday loans online