Monday, June 24, 2013

Catholicism and Pacifism: Part Two

Today has been an especially stressful day for me.  The boys have colds and feel even more cooped up and I'm having to deal with legalese about our vacating our apartment.  It's a good thing I can read.  So bear with me if my grammar is awful or my making of sense is off.

Sophie Miriam writes:
I thought this post was really interesting, and I hope you don't mind if I ask you a few questions about it. (I don't know where I stand on these issues, so rest assured I am not trying to subtly influence you to my side or lead you into a trap when you answer!)

When you talk about total pacifism being a special charism that some people are called you, I interpret that as you saying that if other people use violence it's not necessarily wrong. Am I understanding that correctly? It would be more like St. Francis's total poverty--laudable for him, but it's not a sin that the rest of us own clothes.

This way of thinking about pacifism is totally foreign to me and I'm interested to hear more about it. My moral theology professor would always talk about it in terms of ends and means--there are some means that cannot be ordered to some ends. For example, killing innocent people does not bring about justice, ever. So the question then is whether any kind of killing can be ordered to justice. A pacifist would say no, and depending on the type of pacifist they might say any violence cannot be ordered to justice. But these would then be universal norms, rather than what one person would be called to do.

Assuming I have interpreted you correctly, that you believe it would be wrong for you to perform a violent act but not necessarily for someone else to, would you find it problematic if someone else performed a violent act to protect you?
Sorry if I was a bit unclear.  According to the Catechism we are to avoid violence, but that in certain instances it's fine. 

CCC 2263:  The legitimate defense of persons and societies is not an exception to the prohibition against the murder of the innocent that constitutes intentional killing. "The act of self-defense can have a double effect: the preservation of one's own life; and the killing of the aggressor. . . . The one is intended, the other is not."

And this is where all what I wrote went bye bye.  I'm having a bad day.  So I'll give you the short version.

All Catholics are called to be selective pacifists, that is to avoid violence as much as possible personally and as a country.  You can read it more here.   I would read the sections on legitimate defense, peace, and avoidance of war. 

Only certain Catholics are called to be total pacifists that is to avoid violence altogether.  Meaning they would seek non-violent ways to defend their country and their freedoms and avoid defending themselves in physical means.  I've known people to pray for their attackers and that was enough for the aggressor to leave. 

As for justice:
CCC 2302:  
By recalling the commandment, "You shall not kill,"94 our Lord asked for peace of heart and denounced murderous anger and hatred as immoral. 

Anger is a desire for revenge. "To desire vengeance in order to do evil to someone who should be punished is illicit," but it is praiseworthy to impose restitution "to correct vices and maintain justice."95 If anger reaches the point of a deliberate desire to kill or seriously wound a neighbor, it is gravely against charity; it is a mortal sin. The Lord says, "Everyone who is angry with his brother shall be liable to judgment.

CCC 2267:  
Assuming that the guilty party's identity and responsibility have been fully determined, the traditional teaching of the Church does not exclude recourse to the death penalty, if this is the only possible way of effectively defending human lives against the unjust aggressor. 

 If, however, non-lethal means are sufficient to defend and protect people's safety from the aggressor, authority will limit itself to such means, as these are more in keeping with the concrete conditions of the common good and more in conformity to the dignity of the human person. 

Today, in fact, as a consequence of the possibilities which the state has for effectively preventing crime, by rendering one who has committed an offense incapable of doing harm - without definitely taking away from him the possibility of redeeming himself - the cases in which the execution of the offender is an absolute necessity "are very rare, if not practically nonexistent.

In other words, justice can be carried out in the form of jail and only in extreme cases is the death penalty even necessary.  The Bishops in the US have basically said that the death penalty is not necessary to safe guard people in the US.

As for defending me:
CCC 2269: The fifth commandment forbids doing anything with the intention of indirectly bringing about a person's death. The moral law prohibits exposing someone to mortal danger without grave reason, as well as refusing assistance to a person in danger. 

I can't refuse to help someone, but that doesn't mean I have to violently.  If someone is being attacked by a person usually it's enough to scare the person away by walking up or even protecting the person with your body.  That's about as much as I would allow someone to do.  I wouldn't allow them to reach for their Magnum and shoot the person even if it wasn't a deadly blow.  Now if that's how they want to go about it in defense of themselves, they have every right to as long as they've formed a good conscience about violence.  I can't stop them because that would be a violation of free will.  The only thing I can do is suggest that to be a martyr is not an awful way to die.  We are all going to die anyway so it might as be for a worthy reason.

Better publish this in case it gets lost...I hope that I've answered your questions.  Feel free to keep asking more.

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I love to read your thoughts. Thanks for sharing!