The voice of the Vatican

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					                                                               s.Jr-i.iI tl'Ji liirttl
                                                                Bruce Duncan

                      The voice of the Vatican
          ur. Velrcnx pr,Ays a leading role         The Compendium does not seek to                     been slow to depict himself in a religious
 in global   debates about violence and war,     bind Catholics in conscience to accept its             light, as leading a new crusade in defence
economic development for poorer coun-            vicws as if they were doctrinal statements             of Christian values and          civilisation
tries, and thc distribution of resources. To     central to faith. Although thc Church                  against Islamic terrorists. This attempt to
make its views better known, in 2004 the         afffrms strongly its moral principles,                 co-opt religious language and symbols is
Vatican published a compilation of Church        fudgments about social, economic and                   not iust a cynical manipulation of moral
statements/ many o{ which oppose key             political matters of their nature are less             traditions, but has very worrying implica-
policies of the Bush administration, espe-       definitive. Such judgmcnts do not depend               tions if allowed to pass unchallenged.
cially on the war in Iraq, the role of social    solely on the authority of the Church, but                  With the invasion of Iraq clearly in
justice, and the need for greater equity in      more on the force of the arguments them-               mind, the Com pendium states that accord-
the world economy.                               selves   in changing circumstances. Hence              ing to the UN Charter, war is legitimate
    The Compendium ot'                                              there may be room for               only in self-defence or when authorised by
the Social Doctrine of                                              debate      or       changes of     thc Security Council to maintain peace.
the Chttrch cannot        be                                        position.                           'Therefore, engaging in a preventive war
conveniently dismissed                                                 However, the Church              without clear proof that an attack is immi-
as the work of trendy                                               takes very seriously                nent cannot fail to raise serious moral and
lefties in the Church. It                                           Christ's words          to   feed   juridical questions.'It warns against allow-
is the most considered                                              the hungry, care for the            ing military might to determinc right,
and comprehensive pub-                                              sick, the homeless    and           declaring that 'international law must
lication on such a range                                            people in distress, and so                    ensure that the law o{ the more
of issues ever issued                                               considcrs concern about             T         powerful does not prevail'.
on the authority of a                                               war, povert, hunger and              I
pope. Pope fohn Paul II                                             iniustice as part of its            I*     .o^t*osr wlrH EARLTER traditions
instructed the Pontiffcal                                           core husiness. lt engages            that considered righting an iniustice legit-
Commission for fustice                                              in efforts to improve the            imate grounds for war, the Compendium
and Peace to prepare                                                human condition, not                 calls on the international community to
thc 525-pagc document,                                              primarily by invoking               'rclect definitively the idea that iustice
and it was revised care-                                            supcrior insight into               can bc sought through recourse to war ...
fully by Cardinal    Joseph                                       technical matters but by              Not only does the Charter of the United
Ratzinger's Congregation for the Doctrine        engaging in earnest conversation about                 Nations ban recourse to force, but it
of the Faith.                                    human needs and encouraging the search                 rejects even the threat to use force.'
    Dcspite its diplomatic language, this        for morc adequate solutions.                                On the morality of war, thcre is some
collection of papal and other church state-          What then does the Compendium tell                 unresolved tension in the texts quoted.
ments is a very strong criticism of US           us about the burning issues of war and                 On one hand, the Compendium strongly
unilateralism and its imperial tenden-           peacemaking?                                           condemns war: 'It is hardly possiblc to
cies. The Church favours international              Pope fohn Paul II and Cardinal                      imagine that in an atomic cra, war could
co-operation/ and insists rcpeatedly that        Ratzinger vigorously contcstcd the moral               be uscd as an instrument of iustice.'War is
freedom must be secured on the basis             legitimacy of the invasion of Iraq by the              a'scourge'and is never an appropriate way
of social justice, equity and respect for        United States, Britain and Australia.                  to resolve problerns that arise between
human rights.                                    They were not alone, of course. The mafor              nations because it creates new and more
   Significantly the Compendium opposes          Catholic bishops' conferences around                   complicated conflicts. 'In the end, war is
ethical relativism that reduces moral            the world endorsed the Vatican views,                  ... always a defeat for humanrty.'
principle to self-interest or the imposition     and many leaders of other mainstream                       The document quotes |ohn Paul II,
ol force. The Church is renewing its claim       churches also challenged whether the war               that 'violence is evil' and'destroys what
to be a key custodian of the          iust-war   was iust.                                              it claims to defend: the dignity, the life,
tradition, but extends this commentary              President Bush relied particularly on               the frccdom of human beings'. It com-
rnto the entire realm of social iustice in the   the political support of right-wing evan-              mends 'the witness of unarmed prophets,
international economv.                           gelical Christians in the US, and has not              who are often thc objects of ridicule'

but who renounce violence to safeguard          service     in   principle, or   to a particular   with  respect for human rights and for the
human rights.                                   war, but adds they 'must be open to                principles of a state ruled by law.' 'It is
   On the other hand, rhe Compendium            accepting alternative forms of scrvicc'.           essential that the use of force, even when
is not pacifist. A war o{     aggression is     Further, the Compendrum rccognises the             necessary be accompanied by a coura-
intrinsically immoral', and states have the     right of resistance to uniust authorities,         geous and lucid analysis of the reasons
duty of defence, 'even using the force o{       even to the point of violent resistance in         behind terrorist attacks', since terrorists
arms'. Quotingt}l'e Catechism, it adduces       extreme cases, although it prefers passive         are more easily recruited when rights
the standard 'strict conditions' {or licit                reslstance as be1n8 more con-            have long been trampled.
use of force: an aggressor is inflicting                  formable to moral principle.
great and lasting damage; all other means
of averting war have proved ineffective;                 HE sANCTToNS    AcArNsr Ineq, which
there must be serious prospects of suc-         took a huge death toll on civilians-per-
cess; and the outcome must not produce          haps 500,000 or more were children-
an even worse result than not fighting.         pose an immense moral question for our                              Ihe Compendium
Yet, incomprehensibly, the C ompendium          Western nations/ and possibly amount
repeats a phrase from the Catechism that        to a great crime against humanity. The                       declares              it'a profanation
was used by prominent Catholic apolo-           Vatican repeatedly opposed such draco-
gists for the invasion of Ilaq to argue that    nian sanctions, but the Western powers                               and a blasphemy
the moral decision for war belonged to          today wish the whole issue to disappear.
governments: 'The evaluation of these           ln contrast to thc intense scrutiny over                            to decla're oneself
conditions for moral legitimacy belongs         the UN administration of the sanctions
to the prudential judgment of those who         regime, there has been almost total                          a   terrorist in Cod's name',
have responsibility for the common good.'       silence in our media about the morality of
Thesc apologists used this sentence to          the sanctions themselves and responsibil-
                                                                                                             and sourns the idea that

claim that decisions of government over-        itv for the catastrophic death toll.
ruled the moral views of the churches               The Compendium declares that sanc-
                                                                                                                          those who die
against the legitimacy of the invasion. As      tions must 'never be used as a means for
Cardinal Ratzinger later indicated, the         the direct punishment of an entire popu-
                                                                                                                    in terrorist attacks
misleading scntcnce should be withdrawn         Iation: it is not licit that entire popula-
from the Catechism.                             tions, and above all their most vulnerable
                                                                                                                              are      martvrs
     The Compendium recognises that             members, be made to suffer because of
defence forces 'make an authentic con-          such sanctions ... An economic embargo                                                                                        :   lr:
                                                                                                   j.   ;=       :;'1.:.',li :-,..,:.,.....-i-..:i.;,.,.t   ;i I,..''1:'1I,
tribution to peace', and especially those       must be of limited duration and cannot
serving on humanitarian or peace-keeping        be iustified when the resulting effects are
missions promoted by the United Nations.        i   ndis crimin ate'.                                  The document also quotes Pope |ohn
This duty of humanitarian intervention              Terrorism too is to be condemned               Paul II as saying that nothing can justify
even overrides the principle o{ national        as /one of the most brutal forms of vio            torture. Far from simply endorsing a US-led
sovereignty.   To enforce the provisions        lence', sowing 'hatred, death, and an              war against terrorism, the Compendium
of international law and punish human           urge for revenge and reprisal.' But the            puts the issues of war and violence in the
rights abuses, the Church strongly sup-         Compendium insists that the causes of              context of cconomic justice, social equity
ports the International Criminal Court.         terrorism must not be overlooked. 'The             and international development, including
     The Church also calls for a       'gen-    fight against terrorism presupposes the            the plight of the pooresl countries strug,-
eral, balanced and controlled disarma-          moral duty to help create those condi-             gling under impossible debts.
ment/ and banning all weapons of mass           tions that will prevent it from arising or             Pope fohn Paul II stated on World Day
destruction, including ending nuclear           developing.'                                       of Peace, 2000: At the beginning of the
testing. The document supports the                  'fhe Compendium d,eclares it 'a profa-         New Millennium, the poverty of billions
ban on child soldiers and anti-personnel        nation and a blasphemy to declare oneself          of men and women is "the one issue that
mines, and urges stricter controls over         a terrorist in God's name', and spurns             most challenges our human and Christian
the production and sale of small arms           the idea that those who die in terrorist           consciences"'. Indced, 'another name for
and light weapons.                              attacks are martyrs. 'No religion may tol-         peace is development', as Pope Benedict
   In addition, 'Everv member of the            erate terrorism and much less preach it.           XVI has since indicated with his support
armed Iorces is morally obliged to resist       Rather, religions must work together to            for the United Nations and its Millennium
orders that cali for perpetuating crimes        remove the causes of terrorism and pro-            Development Goals.                       I
against the law of nations and the uni-         mote friendship among peoples'.
versal principles of this law.' Nor can               One cannot help lamenting the fail-          Bruce Duncan cSsR           co-ordinates
violations of human rights be justifi.ed        ures of thc US government and military             the program in social fustice studies at
by claiming obedience to superior orders.       to live up to their finest ideals as the           Yarra Theol,ogical Union in Melbourne
The document also supports the right            Compendium continues: /The struggle                and is a consultant with Catholic
of   conscientious objectors   to   mili,tary   against terrorists must be carried out             Services Victoria.

                                                                                                   NOVEMBER_DECEMBER2OO5                                EUREKASIRETI 3I

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