Military Occupation

Salvete, omnes!

I was just wondering if the Catholic Church has ever spoken (especially infallibly) on the subject of the notion of military occupation, i.e., the assumption of the land of a conquered enemy after the conquest of that enemy as a punitive measure and/or for the purpose of maintaining order/quashing uprisings which might again endanger a state? (As a classicist, I’m particularly thinking ofthe Ancient Roman model.)

First of all, would Christ have considered the Roman occupation of at least some territories a “just” one, ifthose territories had been subdued in a just manner and if the subsequent occupation were handled/administered in a just manner? After all, He never appears to have advocated any physical/literal uprising against the Romans and seems in some places to have encouraged cooperation with the ruling authorities (in paying taxes, arguable in “going the extra mile” when compelled, etc.). John the Baptist also only encouraged the soldiers that came to him not to abuse the power they had been given. John never outright expressed that what the soldiers (and their ruling government) were doing was wrong.

Furthermore, Paul arguable states that the ruling authorities in his day were placed there by God, though some might argue that what he meant here was simply the more general sense that ruling authorities generally were established by God, but not necessarily the Roman occupying authorities.

Again, as I recall from hearing about/reading history, the Church very much opposed any tendency of the occupied Jewish people toward revolt against Rome. However, was this due to their desire to “love their enemies”, their desire to maintain peace in which they could do their work or some other reason other than their consent to the just governance of occupying authorities?

Even when the Roman Empire was Christianized, the State never seemed at all to say that the Empier’s occupation of so many lands was unjust. Indeed, we see no moves of anyone to relinquish any territory because of some notion that its occupation is and always had been unjust.

I guess my main question is: Does the Church consider military occupation, in every time and in every situation, no matter what, to be inherently evil? Are there some situations wherein such occupation is inherently evil, but not others? (Again, I am here mainly asking this because of my personal interest in classical/Graeco-Roman civilization and in how I should conceive of/understand it in the light of Christian/Catholic doctrine.)


If you cannot find any church teaching against military occupation, it may be that there is none. I should think the church is unconcerned about which worldly power is in charge of a particular territory at a particular time. After all, there is nothing absolute about rulers, governments, and borders; they change all the time. The church is concerned rather that “the powers that be” promote peace, justice, and the rule of law, not to mention providing for basic human needs like food, water, clothing, and shelter.

I think I see where your question comes from. These days, national sovereignty, self-determination, and even democracy have come to be regarded as some kind of moral laws, but I think they are in fact disconnected from morality based on the common good, or the good of the people. It even seems to me that those nationalistic concepts support bad governments as often as good governments. It’s no wonder that the church has not lent its support to those ideas.

I’m not sure if there is any Church teaching, authoritative/infallible or not, being pretty new to looking into Catholicism. That’s why I was asking y’all. :slight_smile:

But, yeah, right now, I tend to agree with what you’ve said here. I’ve always thought that it doesn’t matter who’s ruling, as long as a) they’ve gotten the rule legitimately and b) they govern properly. And, yes, granted, Rome did have a number or corrupt officials, even governors, who were, it must be noted, often recalled by the emperors just for that reason (Pilate himself, I think, was one of those?)! But, as you say, I don’t think that makes such states inherently wrong.

I doubt it.

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