Warrior saints vs. the idea of nonviolence

I am aware that in the past, there were many warrior saints who fought in battle and were canonized for, not in spite of, their violent actions on the battlefield, which surely included killing (eg. St Louis IX, St Joan of Arc). However it seems that this idea has disappeared from the Church, with the Church’s teaching today promoting nonviolence. Do the two ideas contradict?

St. Joan of Arc did no such thing. She preferred her banner to the sword she was given. She was there to inspire the troops and call them to holiness.

No. You may want to note that, one, not all killing is murder (and murder is condemned by the Bible), and two, you may want to look into the Just War Theory.


“The Church recognizes that a nation has not just the right, but the obligation to ensure the security of its citizens and to respond to an aggression, even - if only under very strict conditions - by means of military force. The Pope has stressed further that in certain other situations the community of nations has the obligation to block the hand of an aggressor, when he threatens those who cannot defend themselves.”

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The Church doesn’t preach pacifism. Violence is considered acceptable in certain situations, such as self-defense.


St Louis IX took an active part in the Seventh and Eighth Crusades. This was not the type of war to grab power and territory, he believed he was defending Christianity. It is easy to judge from the present, but it was a different time back then.


There’s also the concept of “a just war”. There are two sets of criteria: “right to go to war” (jus ad bellum) and “right conduct in war” (jus in bello). Augustine and Aquinas did a lot to develop the subject, if I recall.

In modern times, there’s been more focus on a third set of criteria: “right conduct after war” (jus post bellum) which deals with reconstruction/resettlement/etc.

There’s the additional difficulty of being a Christian under a government that engages in an unjust war. Augustine suggested that they obey their political masters, as they have been commanded to do by God, but engage in their part of war as justly as they can manage.

The Church allows and admires an entirely pacifist response to the Gospel, and also allows the teaching of Just War, without contradiction. http://www.usccb.org/issues-and-action/human-life-and-dignity/war-and-peace/nuclear-weapons/upload/statement-the-challenge-of-peace-1983-05-03.pdf This is not to say that the wars, battles, and actions of such Saints is necessarily just.

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First, Joan was a commander, but didn’t actually carry a weapon or fight in battle.

Second, there have been a lot of warrior saints or saints in the pipeline who were trained for battle if necessary, but actually did some kind of non-combatant job such as chaplain (Blessed Daniel Brottier) or firefighter (St. Florian).

Third, serving as a knight on behalf of your kingdom was kind of an expected career path for noblemen during a long period of time in Europe; it was how you protected your country and family, kept social order, and even got ahead economically. So we have a lot of saints who followed a normal path of military service for a while, like St. Thomas a Becket, St. Ignatius Loyola, and even St. Francis. None of them were canonized for stuff they did on the battlefield though, rather for stuff they did when they weren’t on the battlefield.

I think nowadays there are paths available for countries to resolve differences that didn’t exist in past centuries. But having said that, if some person was in a situation where they had to serve in the military (such as conscription, or to drive out invaders not friendly to the Church), it probably wouldn’t keep them from sainthood, especially if they ended up martyred.

Jose Sanchez Del Rio, who was just canonized recently, could be called a modern “warrior saint”; given that he was a 14-year-old flagbearer, he probably wasn’t running around killing people himself, but he was no doubt helping the soldiers in their mission to do so, by doing support work. He was fighting against anti-clerical forces and he was martyred pretty heroically for the faith.


This is true, but in this liberal day and age, you will get to be a saint faster if you are in a non-combat role because no one will complain about you having killed people. Even if it was in a just war.

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