Another Outbreak of Mater, Si; Magistra, No

May 2006By Dale Vree

Dale Vree is the Editor of New Oxford Review.

Mater, sí; Magístra, no means that she (the Church) is our Mother, but not our Teacher. Most Catholics make up their own minds about what they will or won't accept in Church teachings -- nowadays often called "pick-and-choose" Catholicism.

Regarding the statements by Pope John Paul II and Cardinal Ratzinger (now Pope Benedict XVI) that the war on Iraq is unjust, we've heard the same old "pick-and-choose" Catholicism from many of our readers who support the war. We've also heard persistently from some of our readers that those pronouncements are not infallible.

However, these pronouncements are not "prudential" judgments. These pronouncements have to do with doctrine and morals. War is precisely about morals.

As for doctrine, the Church has her Just War doctrine. One of the criteria for a just war is that it be a "last resort." Only four days before the U.S. invaded Iraq, Pope John Paul II (once again) appealed to the Just War doctrine of "last resort," adding that "there is still time to negotiate."

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Back to May 2006 Issue

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You are right. Both are presumptuous. All we can do, therefore, is to interpret the facts as we know them, and act accordingly. And the fact is that Iraq (even if they do/did have WMD) did nothing to harm
America or its property. Thus, America has no justification to attack Iraq.
Posted by: Mike Ezzo
July 18, 2006 11:39 PM EDT
Undoubtedly some Catholics who have been raised with traditional values in American society, including patriotism and the strong desire to serve the nation's ideals, will find it difficult to agree with the arguments in "Another Outbreak...." As a retired Catholic Navy and Marine Corps Chaplain, I instinctively feel the need to support the policies of the Commander in Chief now, just as I did during the first Gulf War. But your reasoning and conclusion about the morality of this conflict is unavoidable. The assent of obedience and acceptance of the teaching of the Church, when it is comfortable and when it is not, is an essential part of our faith. If the West had listened to the last Pope Benedict in 1914, and Pius XI and XII in the 1930's, how many millions of lives could have been saved? The world marches on ignoring the prophets today as it has always done, but some of us do need to realize that they are the ones appointed by God to speak to us. We traditionalists need to accept that the invasion of Iraq was wrong and not necessary, hard as it may be.

Lt. K. Walsh, USNR, CHC, (ret.)
Posted by: skysix
May 04, 2006 10:22 AM EDT
I've been following your arguments on the war month after month. And while I won't cancel my subscription because I disagree with you (I'm not angry in the least) I may not renew it because you've become tedious and because you've become willing to torture both logic and Church tradition just to win an argument. I can appreciate someone who passionately disagrees with me, but I expect them to address all the points of disagreement and not just hammer the same couple of points over and over again.

You have two points that you make incessantly: 1) No WMDs were found 2) The Pope agrees with you that this is not a Just War. And the only letters you print are the easy pitches that let you take a round of the bases on your own terms.

You've missed an opportunity to have a lively, interesting discussion and to, potentially, convert thinking people to your position.

First you could have had a conversation on Just War Theory and whether it's still relevant in the 21st Century. Instead you just proclaimed it doctrine on dubious grounds and declared everyone who disagrees with you a heretic. Which Church Council proclaimed "Just War Doctrine?" You could have discussed why the teaching on the death penalty (self-defense within a society) is mutable based on present circumstances but the one on just wars (self-defense against other societies) isn't.

Secondly, President Bush and his supporters did not rest their case solely on the possible presence of WMDs. Among the many points made by supporters that you could have debated was that this war was a continuation of the Gulf War which the Pope approved as just. Saddam Hussein refused to live by the terms of peace and hostilities were renewed--same just war.

You have never addressed the contention of Mr. Bush that every opportunity for peace was explored and that Saddam Hussein's willingness to negotiate was nothing more than a ruse to continue to violate the terms of the peace.

You have never discussed the Popes' own inconsistencies on what constitutes a "Just War." It was OK to invade Yugoslavia to stop a tyrant and a genocide--indeed JPII begged President Clinton to intervene--but not Iraq for the same reason. Yugoslavia had never invaded another country, it was doing its business internally. Iraq deliberately invaded Kuwait and threatened its neighbors. JPII also had an infatuation with the UN and thought we ought to get permission not from him but from the UN to go to war. Wow, find that one in Catholic doctrine anywhere.

Further, wrapping yourself in the papal standard and adopting a "the Pope tells me so" attitude on the war when your magazine has been readily critical of the judgement of JPII and Benedict on other issues might just require some explanation. If I can't trust Benedict to name an orthodox bishop to a major archbishopric or an orthodox cardinal to the CDF, or to keep homosexuals out the seminaries, or to enforce any discipline in the ranks of the clergy why should I trust what he has to say about the war? You could probably make a good argument--you just never do.

A prophet may be reviled, but he is never uninteresting. NOR is becoming self-satisfied, smug and boring. The only good thing about your declaration against the "heretics" is that you may have exhausted what you have to say and are ready to move on.

William Ferguson
Tulsa, OK
Posted by: tommytomorrow
May 06, 2006 01:43 AM EDT
What is the difference between the private magazine or individual who states with no authority, "God has not mandated this war," and the private magazine or individual who states without authority, "God has mandated this war?" Are not both claiming to read the mind of God? Not even our Holy Father Benedict XVI presumes to do this.
Posted by: rdohanian
June 19, 2006 02:50 PM EDT
William Ferguson nailed it. There is not much else one can say. The NOR is a 'pick and choose' Catholic periodical and being generally well written gets away with it.... or does she? Let us know how the donations are going compared to previous years. Being positional about being right, especially with a wagging pointed finger with a shrill tone likely is not going over very well.

My sense of Augustine’s Just War Doctrine is the theory makes every war unjust. As a tactic in attempting to prevent war, especially between Christians, it has not worked very well.

How many of its citizens does a government get to kill before a neighbor stops it to have it be a just war? Why is that an odd question?

Are their any countries left that don't kill their own citizens for one ‘legitimate' reason or another?

Michael Eisbrener
Medellin, Colombia SA
Posted by: mykleone
May 11, 2006 05:09 PM EDT
This morning, I was reading about Pope Gregory IX goading Frederic II into a crusade. How were the crusades justified under Augustine's Just War Doctrine? Posted by: Big Pete
May 17, 2006 11:51 AM EDT
Mr Ferguson:

God bless you. You make good arguments for NOR to ponder (and I hope address in a future issue). I am genuinely sad that I may be forced to surrender this useful source of Catholic information because of this mutiny.

I say “mutiny” because my main concern is how NOR has come to a point that they are comfortable appropriating the authority which the Church reserves only for Her bishops? Who gave NOR the authority to judge who is Catholic and who is not?

There is more than one understanding of papal statements on the Iraqi War making the rounds. I have not heard of any one of them being condemned by the Holy See.

How dare NOR give themselves the laurel wreath and declare every other runner disqualified? How dare they load such a burden on Catholic military families with absolutely no authority?

Wendy Dohanian
Pascagoula, MS

Posted by: rdohanian
May 17, 2006 03:30 PM EDT
Big Pete,
The original intention of the Crusades was to send Christian soldiers to the Holy Land in order to *defend* pilgrims from being slaughtered by the Mohammedans. (And yes, Christians were indeed being slaughtered.) Though it is, of course, true that some Crusaders committed abuses, the genesis of the Crusades was in accord with Just War principles. Refer to "Triumph" HW Crocker III for more details.
Posted by: nortemp
May 18, 2006 10:56 AM EDT
I do not understand how anyone outside of a very few administration and intelligence insiders can make a judgment about the war and why we entered it. The nature of "what they knew and when they knew it" will never be known to the masses or even the Pope. That is the nature of intelligence. And it is the reason it is important to elect people of character to our presidency.

It seems presumptuous to claim that this war was unjust when none of those making the claims on behalf of the Church have all of the facts. What am I missing here? Do we have Vatican advisers in the CIA? Does George Bush hold intelligence briefings for the Pope? If not, how can Church officials be in a position to determine the posture and intentions of the former Iraqi government?

Please advise.

Thank you.

Posted by: jdhollowell
June 02, 2006 11:23 AM EDT
Catholic does not equal American. There are many Americans, mostly in the Evangelical right, but also Catholics and liberals who think Christianity and Catholicism are American inventions. The way some reason makes it sound as if America was the Lord’s Promised Land and Americans the Lord’s chosen people. Some even seem to think that democracy is mandated by Jesus and that any other form of government is evil. This is what I call the American Heresy. Part of this pattern of logic is to see every American war as backed if not mandated by God. In reality this is part of the American civil religion which is the true religion of the state. It justifies every action with the “God Bless America” motto and it sees our country as morally superior to all others. Some wars are more just that others, no doubt, but Christ did not call his Church to war or to hate our enemies. Actually he called us to pray for our enemies, to bless those who persecute us, to give the other cheek, to love those who hate us. Being Catholic is a call above and beyond our natural nationality. There is nothing wrong with loving your country and patriotism, but when these are in opposition to the call of Christ, then the Christian should always be loyal to Christ rather then your nation. Posted by: ragcia149
June 02, 2006 02:03 PM EDT
Canon 749 §3. No doctrine is understood as defined infallibly unless this is manifestly evident.

The teaching of the Church that some wars are just and others are unjust is doctrine. However, in the case of any particular war, evaluating the circumstances to apply that doctrine is a decision of the temporal order; it is not a teaching. Such decisions are never infallible because infallibility only applies to teachings.

Furthermore, Vatican I (yes, one) solemnly defined the conditions under which the Pope teaches infallibly. The Pope's comments on the Iraq war do not even come close to meeting those conditions. But if anyone says that the dogma of papal infallibility is not as Vatican I taught, but that the Pope is infallible when a lesser set of criteria are met, such an idea is a heresy.

Posted by: ronconte
November 02, 2007 08:54 AM EDT
These are very good comments and as has been said, Mr. Ferguson nailed it. It is over a year later and still the NOR drones on about the unjust war, to the point, it seems to me, to begin to be about America vs "being Catholic". A very bad move, like forcing a child to choose between you and it's mother. The bigger question is what should be done now that we are in Iraq. There are many so-called catholics that continue rant on in opposition to the administration which does nothing but cause continued support for the terrorists. Is that being a good Catholic? Posted by: wunsch
November 02, 2007 10:40 AM EDT
Its over, Its done. We are in Iraq. I've had a bellyfull of your whining about NOT GOING into Iraq.

Never before have we faced a barbaric ideology as that of Muslims that is not only all over the world but embedded in our society ready to strike again like the DEVIL servant's they are.
Posted by: paulc37
November 02, 2007 10:56 PM EDT
Unfortunately, the Magistra has been not only infiltrated by modernists, liberals, evolutionists, etc., but in some cases has been taken over.

For example, the Pontifical Institute for Science is planning a Conference on evolution, and there is perhaps one presenter who seems to be creationist.

This might explain JP II's ambivalence about evolution. All his science advisors are evolutionists.

Another potentially suspicious area is the machienery to appoint bishops. How come we have so many bad bishops?

So, how do you know what prononuncement can you trust from the "Vatican"?

It seems one must be a "caffeteria Catholic" with the post Vatican II Magisterium. You can trust only the Pope's Ex Cathedra statements. Others, especially those that are different from the two thousand year old doctrine must be viewed with suspicion.

Posted by: blueskies
April 08, 2008 12:13 PM EDT
Here is an example of a case where I have serious doubts. According a CNS story, "Rabbi Rosen, who said that he has seen a draft of the clarifying statement, said that reassurance on that point would repair any problems in Catholic-Jewish relations. It should be understood, he said, that the Good Friday prayer "certainly in no way compromises the Church's total opposition to proselytizing."

Does this mean that now suddenly the Jews are exempt from the mandate in Mt28:19?

Does "Total opposition" mean that now we cannot pray for their conversion, or I cannot hope that my Jewsih friends convert, or a convert Jew cannot talk to his or her family about Jesus?

I am more and more a caffeteria Catholic, with the modernist-liberal takeover of the Vatican bureaucracy.
Posted by: blueskies
April 08, 2008 12:39 PM EDT
I think William Ferguson is right on. I don't accept NOR's conclusion that my support for the war puts me at odds with the Catholic Church anymore than I believe that my support for capital punishment puts me at odds with Catholic Doctrine. I don't believe that the Pope was speaking infallibly when he urged GW not to go to war. I don't accept NOR's conclusion that the war is unjust because I don't think they have considered all the evidence. I do believe that NOR has created a cleverly contrived piece to raise opposition to the war using the Church as a lever.

Iowa Mike
Posted by: Iowa Mike
April 08, 2008 02:21 PM EDT
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