Ad Limina Apostolorum (Blog) | St. Augustine's Library
Monday, September 13, 2004

Conscientious objection? Maybe on one of my better days 

But today's not one of my better days.

Christopher Culver writes:

Happily the Roman Catholic Church allows total conscientious objection and permits refusing to take part even in something that falls under its just war criteria.

This response is all well and good. Unless, that is, you were a part of a society which includes persons other than yourself.

CCC 1915. As far as possible citizens should take an active part in public life.

CCC 2240. Submission to authority and co-responsibility for the common good ake it morally obligatory to pay taxes, to exercise the right to vote, and to defend one's country.

CCC 2310. Public authorities, in this case, have the right and duty to impose on citizens the obligations necessary for national defense.

Yes, CCC 2311 does encourage governing authorities to permit conscientious objectors to avoid such wars (though, mind you, making no moral judgment on the act itself), so long as they "serve the human community in some other way." But this looks back to the conciliar authority of Gaudium et Spes 78, which states, regarding the avoidance of war:

Motivated by this same spirit, we cannot fail to praise those who renounce the use of violence in the vindication of their rights and who resort to methods of defense which are otherwise available to weaker parties too, provided this can be done without injury to the rights and duties of others or of the community itself [emphasis added].

Translation: If your ducking out of a war won't do any harm to your fellow men, more power to you. If it puts others, whether individuals or your country as a whole, in danger, then you have a moral obligation to serve your fellow man through charitable service, by laying your life down to defend him.

Jesus said he would take care of anyone who harms children himself.

A reference to Matthew 18:6. The implication, I suppose, is that because Jesus told child abusers they were going to be punished, we don't need to do anything about them. And, I suppose, because Jesus says the same thing about those who oppress the poor, we don't need to do anything about them either. In fact, all evildoers will be punished appropriately on Judgment Day, so why should we cause additional trouble for them here on earth? Let's just let rapists and murderers run free, while we privately rejoice in their eschatological doom.

Why then do we have to concern ourselves with vengence? Why do we feel that these people are a threat when all they could do is take our lives while we receive the Kingdom if we follow His will?
This kind of saccharine piety, to steal a phrase from Shea, is for those who don't have children. Me? I suppose I wouldn't mind too much being a martyr, so long as they killed me quick. But if they try to martyr my son, they've gotta go through me first. And if they give me enough notice, I'll make a very long stop at a gun shop before they get here.

# posted by Jamie : 1:49 PM


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Ad Limina Apostolorum: An ecclesiastical term meaning a pilgrimage to the sepulchres of St. Peter and St. Paul at Rome, i.e., to the Basilica of the Prince of the Apostles and to the Basilica of St. Paul "outside the walls".

"Augustine of Hippo Refuting Heretic"
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John Milbank's Theology & Social Theory: Beyond Secular Reason (next in stack)

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J. B. Schneewind's Invention of Autonomy: A History of Modern Moral Philosophy (reading)

Paul Hacker's Ego in Faith: Martin Luther and the Origins of Anthopocentric Religion (finished: 3 stars)

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