Doesn't the just war doctrine of the church therefore mean the end can justify the means?

Using lethal force is not a good thing. But according to the church, sometimes it’s necessary to engage in war, so therefore isn’t that an example of “the ends justifying the means?”.

This is war we are talking about, not matters of civilian issues. When it comes to “Just War” we have to bear in mind why the war is “just”. If the only option left is war and not going to war would cost more lives than going to war, than the war is just.

If Judas Maccabeus had not gone to war with the Greeks, there would be no Christianity today. If Holy Righteous Joshua had not conquered Canaan, there would be no Christianity.

That being said, even in war there are still rules to follow. Hence why there are such a thing as “war crimes”. It’s one thing to level an enemy HQ with hellfire drone missles and there be some civilian collateral damage. It’s another thing to deliberately target a school full of children in hopes you take out one officer.

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The churches teaching on “the ends cannot justify the means” has to do with intrinsically evil acts. Any action, that is always wrong, cannot be justified because of a supposed good that can come out if it.
Now, waging war is not intrinsically evil. It can be just, so in this case the ends must justify the means.

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Isn’t the term “just war” an oxymoron?

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There is a commandment that says “You shall not kill,” and I think we should take it quite seriously, and not attach conditions to it, like “except in combat,” or “unless it is proportional.”

The term “just war” suggests that one may go to war in order to establish justice, or to end injustice. The problem is that each side sees itself as just, and its adversary as unjust. In any case, the taking of a life is a grave injustice to the one who loses it.

I think the only way to rationalize the just war is by the principle of double effect. For example, our intent might be to save the lives of our countrymen. Nothing wrong with that. After thoughtful consideration of all the alternatives, we may determine that the only way to save our lives is to destroy the enemy’s bomb factory. So far so good. The fact that the surrounding village will be obliterated is regrettable, but is not our intent. That’s double effect. Does that make it okay?

The commandment reads more in line with “thou shall not murder”. For if it truly said “thou shall not kill” than God is a hypocrite for commanding Israel to kill all those people He commands them to kill.

For murder is an unjustified killing.

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No, because war itself isn’t an intrinsically sinful act.

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I have only ever seen that interpretation here on the internet, and recently. Can you find it in genuine Church teaching? The closest of which I am aware is the Catechism passage on self defense, which seems to be based on Thomas Aquinas’ writings on personal defense, and seems to rely on the double effect argument.

God is not a hypocrite. He lends each of us a life, he determines its span, and when it comes due, he justly takes it back, for it was his all along.

No human can claim that authority.

This argument always seems just freely asserted to me, since war invariably involves intrinsically sinful things.

I’ve heard rationalizations like this before, and i really see no difference between this and the ends justifying the means. We can acknowledge the act of violence is intrinsically evil. But since there is “nothing wrong” with our ends, if the only means we can determine will get us to those ends are intrinsically evil ones, we can just say that “the evil consequences are regrettable”, but it wasn’t our “intent” so it’s fine.

Due to human weakness, war includes atrocities, which are inherently sinful, and there is no justification for them. That’s why war criminals are hanged.

But atrocities are not a necessary part of war, and the just war doctrine explicitly excludes them. Killing armed enemy forces, however, such as in combat, is NOT intrinsically sinful, and if you insist on this, you are wrong. We cannot and will not that the act of violence is intrinsically evil. This is where your argument fails, because the Church does not teach this.

I found these answers rather too brief, and not entirely satisfying. Therefore, as a service to my fellow CAF members, I have looked up the Catechism on just war:

CCC 2307-2317

I note that the section begins with many restrictions:

Avoiding war

2307 The fifth commandment forbids the intentional destruction of human life. Because of the evils and injustices that accompany all war, the Church insistently urges everyone to prayer and to action so that the divine Goodness may free us from the ancient bondage of war.

2308 All citizens and all governments are obliged to work for the avoidance of war.

However, “as long as the danger of war persists and there is no international authority with the necessary competence and power, governments cannot be denied the right of lawful self-defense, once all peace efforts have failed.”

2309 The strict conditions for legitimate defense by military force require rigorous consideration. The gravity of such a decision makes it subject to rigorous conditions of moral legitimacy. At one and the same time:

  • the damage inflicted by the aggressor on the nation or community of nations must be lasting, grave, and certain;

  • all other means of putting an end to it must have been shown to be impractical or ineffective;

  • there must be serious prospects of success;

  • the use of arms must not produce evils and disorders graver than the evil to be eliminated. The power of modern means of destruction weighs very heavily in evaluating this condition.

These are the traditional elements enumerated in what is called the “just war” doctrine.

The evaluation of these conditions for moral legitimacy belongs to the prudential judgment of those who have responsibility for the common good.

Ive always loved the “you’re wrong because you’re wrong” argument. Always very persuasive.

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You are not alone. Not everyone accepts the principle of double effect. I am still not sure whether or how I could live by it.

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If the church teaches the only just war is a retaliatory/self defensive war, then that makes more sense. I thought the definition for just war was more broad.

But I would say by these standards a just war is just about impossible. Seems like an ideal situation that can’t actually be reached.

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Thankyou. I was not attempting to explain the whole of the teaching of a just war. I was only trying to address the OP’s question: which basically asked why the first condition listed in 2309 is not an example of “the ends justifying the means”.

The Church’s precise teaching is :

1759 “An evil action cannot be justified by reference to a good intention” (cf. St. Thomas Aquinas, Dec. praec . 6). The end does not justify the means.

The point is that waging war is not always an evil action. If it meats the criteria you provided, it is a just action.

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You are right. I cannot think of a recent war that followed those Catholic teachings.

The just war theory does not rely on the principle of double effect.

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I also note that the doctrine of just war is not infallible Church Dogma, and it may be subject to change. From time to time, the Church reconsiders the topic. If you search the internet for terms like catholic just war, you can find some articles about these efforts.

I consider the Just War doctrine a teaching of the ordinary Magisterium, and therefore requires assent.

As for the “wrong because you are wrong” accusation, I just have the Church’s teaching on my side. The Catechism provides a sufficient explanation.

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