Another Outbreak of Mater, Si; Magistra, No
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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