Rorate Caeli

Philippine Bishops’ Newspaper : There are no Just Wars

The CBCP Monitor is the fortnightly newspaper that is issued by the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines, and that acts as its official organ. Its September 1-14 issue contains what may be a first in the world of Catholic Episcopal conferences: an editorial condemning – without qualifications – the very idea of “just war.” The language is unusually harsh in condemning a “theory” that has been held by virtually all Catholic doctors and theologians and which is taught by the Magisterium.

[UPDATE: The original version of the editorial was apparently written by Oscar Cruz, Archbishop of Lingayen-Dagupan and the recognized dean of Philippine canon lawyers. He is one of the Philippine hierarchy's harshest critics of the current president of the Philippines, whose overthrow he has repeatedly advocated. The original contains the following phrase, which has been modified in the published editorial: "It is definite and defined that any and all wars are unjust. In other words, there is no such animal as a just war..."]

The editorial refers to a “War in Mindanao.” This refers in particular to a still-ongoing military campaign against Islamic extremists in the southern Philippines, who had recently targeted and burned several Christian settlements after the collapse of peace talks between the main Islamic group and the Philippine government. Mindanao has been the scene of a continuous series of Islamic revolts and terrorist actions since the 1970’s.

The editorial appears in the first page of the “Opinion” section (p. A-4) of the CBCP Monitor, September 1-14, 2008 issue (Vol 12. No. 18). I will upload a scan of the editorial soon.

The text of the editorial is as follows. Emphasis mine.
Just war
ON the chilling occasion of the deadly and dreadful war now taking place in Mindanao – on otherwise naturally rich and potentially prosperous region in the country” a persistent question that comes to mind is one and the same. Is the war in Mindanao just?

If so, what makes it a just war? Who sees to it that the war is just? In the event the war is just, why not have war all over the country in promotion of the sorely needed justice in the land?

The unconscionable truth is that war makes a great business. As people are killed in war, there are always those who make big money in war trafficking. Just for the record, let it be noted that as the resources of others are destroyed by war, those however who make war their trade, in effect, build up their wealth. But the question remains and begs for an answer: When is a war just?

The answer to this is curiously found also in questions: Was there ever a just war in human history? Was the 1st World War just?

Was the holocaust just? Was the systematic extermination of the Jews just? Was the 2nd World War just?

Was the atomic bomb explosion in Hiroshima just? Was the indiscriminate killing of many thousands of civilian men, women and children just? Is the Iraq War just?

In other words: is it just to have thousands of invading soldiers killed and more thousands of locals sent to their death as “collateral damage” – with more people still to be killed as the days go on and as the war continues?

Thus far, history has not yet given humanity a just war. Despite philosophical or theological rationalizations, there is no such animal as a just war. Only fools say otherwise. Only clowns wear smiles during war. And only those, whose business is war, rejoice when war is actually waged.

Everybody else – if still alive and well – think, feel and say that there are no winners in war. And those who want war let them go to the front lines and do their war dance until they stop a bullet at hitting somebody else in its way.

The war in Mindanao is grim and gross. And those who are the causal factor of the war, those who provided the occasion for it, are not only censurable but also squarely answerable for the debacle: to agree to what is basically not agreeable, to promise what cannot be really done, to give way to what is not theirs to dispose of, and to expose the lives of others while carefully saving their own hides.

This is certainly not the way of the honorable much less the actuation of rational individuals. These are the characters squarely accountable for the War in Mindanao.

At their feet should be laid the dead and mutilated bodies of the war victims. In due time, justice will surely catch up with these purveyors of injustice – as it is already haunting and hunting them right now.