I was thinking about this issue recently and was wondering if anyone here knows of any Church teaching when it comes to conscription or as we in America have come to know it, the draft. And when I speak of conscription I mean it as the forcing of citizens of a particular country into military service.
I did some research and was not able to find anything conclusive, I read a statement from the old USCCB website (here: old.usccb.org/sdwp/peace/military.shtml ) published in 1980 that seemed to oppose conscription in most instances with an exception for national emergency. But as far as I know the USCCB itself is not authoritative doctrinally, correct?
I also came upon an old WW1 era article about the Vatican’s supposed position on conscription in the context of WW1 at least (here: news.google.com/newspapers?nid=1928&dat=19170924&id=vbIgAAAAIBAJ&sjid=UGkFAAAAIBAJ&pg=3887,4379327) and the position the article presents is decidedly negative.
I really couldn’t find much else, but was wondering if anyone on CAF had some ideas.
Just from a moral point of view I wonder how conscription could be considered moral. Does the state have the right to take you away from your family or those who are dependent on you to put you into military service? That seems to be the specific compelling moral issue here. If the state insists on waging war, are the citizens compelled to comply with conscription? In the case of unjust war it would seem that people would be justified in not complying, but what about in the case of just war? Say a war of legitimate self defense, are the people morally permitted to refuse conscription? If say the odds are so overwhelming that the state just seems to be vain and willing to send their citizens to die in a pointless effort just to send a message to their inevitable conquerers, would they be in the right to refuse service and instead tend to their family responsibilities?
The words that seems to often be used to justify the authority of the state are “render unto Caesar the things that are Caesar’s…” But does this even apply when it comes to conscription? Does the human life belong to Caesar? And if conscription is right, and the government claims you as its own, then how does this not open a pathway for people to call paid slavery legitimate, where someone is drafted into a position of labor, gets paid, but isn’t allowed to say no or leave until the government lets them. If for example someone says this argument is ridiculous because conscription is usually for danger and labor isn’t, but let’s say labor is conscripted due to a famine and the state deems it a critical issue and so drafts laborer and forces them to work certain farms, how is this substantially different from protecting the country from an external threat by the same means?
This is a similar to argument to one I read here about the issue: catholicworker.org/dorothyday/daytext.cfm?TextID=222
These are some of the issues at play and I was wondering if there is anything definitive on this issue and if not, then what your views are on this.