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.


  1. It will be passed over by the Vatican.

    Hugs vs. scimitars... And they call me a fool?

  2. Anonymous5:41 PM

    It should be noted that the Church, n her magisterial pronouncements, does not refer to "just war THEORY", but rather "just war DOCTRINE" (cf. the Catechism).

    There were many among the arly Fathers who held pacifistic doctrines we would now consider heretical, but the Church has authoritatively pronounced against them; not to mention that pacifism contradicts the clear teaching of the Old Testament, the exhortations of John the Baptist to soldiers (never contradicted by Our Lord when he dealt with soldiers), and the teaching of Saint Paul in Romans 13.

    Do note that we should distinguish pacifism (which is a heresy) from the decision to lay down arms, similar to the embrace of an evangelical counsel.

  3. Anonymous7:38 PM

    This is just an editorial, but it shows us how ignorant and/or spiteful many modern Catholics are toward Catholic Tradition. The question we need to be asking is not whether there have ever been just wars, but whether the discussion of Just War Theory in the Catechism of the Catholic Church is insufficient and needs to be supplemented.

  4. Anonymous8:39 PM

    Pacifism is NOT a heresy if it is understood in a properly Christian sense.

    Today, most wars are fought by Freemasonic / Zionist / Petro-Cartel / Maoist / Jihadist / dark forces.

    The wordly agents are most likely to benefit from the peaceful teachings of Christ and his Church, who is the ''Prince of Peace''.

    In fact, the liturgy celebrates the ''peace of Christ'' ; there is much peace to bring to this earth, which truly is not at peace because it has left the good tidings of Our Most Gracious Lord.

  5. Wow. I wonder who the heretic was who wrote this stinking rubbish -- he must be reported to the CDF immediately.

  6. The so called "just war" theologumen remains highly controversial in many circles. A broad reading suggest that it is fundamentally inconsistent with the consensus patrum. We note that the ancient canons of the Church imposed particularly severe penances on anyone who served in the military forces, including suspension from communion for up to three years depending on the circumstances. Neither Blessed Augustine nor St. Ambrose of Milan (among the Latin Fathers) appear on a careful reading to endorse the concept of just war, despite the frequent claims to the contrary on behalf of Bl. Augustine.

    Among the Greek Fathers the concept is completely alien. War is always seen as negative and something to be avoided. The overwhelming majority of the Fathers who wrote on the subject seem to concur that war brings only evil. This concept remains very much alive in the Eastern Churches where there is an absolute prohibition against clergy bearing arms. Also there is a strict canon which proscribes ordination to the priesthood of anyone who has killed someone else, even by accident.

    One might perhaps make the argument that in some circumstances war may be the lesser of evils. But from the patristic point of view (and that of the Christian East) it is never "just."


  7. Thanks for sharing the opinions of an Eastern Orthodox Christian. We are well aware that Orthodox Christians often get things wrong, as do far too many Catholics. However, there is no doubt that the Catholic faith allows for just war, just as there is no doubt that the Eastern Orthodox have no business telling the Catholic Church what the "consensus patrum" is on any subject, nor what Sts. Augustine and Ambrose supposedly taught on the subject. It is nothing but blatant falsehood that claim that St. Augustine taught that there is no such thing as just war.

  8. Anonymous1:44 AM

    Again, I think we're confusing pacifism with voluntary non-violence.

    The former is heresy.

    The latter can be a legitimate course of action, one which the Church has traditionally gone so far as to declare obligatory (with a few notable exceptions) for those of clerical status.

    I also doubt you will find much justification in magisterial sources for the notion that just war is a concession to human weakness and sin. According to traditional Catholic teaching, just warfare is a virtuous act on the part of nations and the soldiers who engage in it. Righteous soldiering is a noble vocation, and the soldier grows in sanctification as he discharges his duties under the impetus of grace, just as much as any other Christian man does. Just warfare is an act of charity.

    In fact, non-violence is not always a legitimate option; for instant, the state would be negligent, and so sinful, if it were to deliberately fail to defend its citizens, as would a stronger man who was in a position to defend a weaker. For instance, I may choose nonviolence for myself, in order to better bear witness to the evangelical counsels, but a father of a family does not have this option to him when his little girl is being attacked and he otherwise has reasonable opportunity to defend her.

    An excellent study on this subject is "The Virtue of War: Reclaiming the Classic Christian Traditions East and West":

    Ad Orientem:

    It is true that particularly in the East soliders in just wars were sometimes (but by no means universally) asked to do penance and even abstain from the Eucharist, but as the book I cited documents rather extensively, and as noted by Father William Most in his historical treatment of the subject (see: ) , these were for reasons of ritual purity, not true sin.

    One who spilled blood was not to enter the Temple of God without doing some sort of ritual purification. This is why in the Middle Ages women were often forbidden to receive the sacraments and/or enter church while they were menstruating, or shortly after having given birth. The discipline here varied, but was more or less consistent in East and West until relatively late in Church history. The ancients were more sensitive to notions of ritual purity than we moderns well, the early and medieval Church included.

    Finally, Jordanes makes an excellent point: We too often make the error in assuming that Eastern Orthodox Christianity has preserved the ancient Patristic tradition unsullied, but when it comes to their moral theology this is often not the case at all.

    While today an historically heretical pacifism is shared by many in the Orthodox churches, this is so blatantly contrary to their tradition, especially their liturgical patrimony, which venerates so many righteous and holy warriors. Heck, just last week both Orthodox and Catholics, Byzantine and Latin, commemorated Saint Sergius of Radonezh, a 14th century abbott who actively counseled a Russian prince that he had a MORAL OBLIGATION to take arms to defend his Christian people from the aggressive, godless Tartars.

    More recently, the Orthodox Church in Greece gave its blessing to the war of independence fought by the Greeks against their Ottoman oppressors. There's even a famous painting comemmorating the (apocryphal) blessing of the new Greek flag and the revolutionaries by Archbishop Germanos. See:

    I could give innumerable other examples, but I think these suffice.

  9. The editorial was apparently authored by Archbishop Oscar Cruz, the dean of Filipino canonists.

  10. Anonymous6:47 AM

    If "ad orientem" is correct it helps explain how the Greeks lost half of Christendom in the space of 10 years...

  11. Anonymous1:10 PM

    It should be pointed out that the last Emperor of Constantinople, Saint Constantine IX, is a canonized saint, venerated (by Orthodox and Byzantine Catholics) precisely for his partaking in a just, defensive war against the Turks.

    The Orthodox have a long history of historical revisionism when it comes to their moral theology.

    Their acquiescence to divorce and remarriage, and most recently to contraception, are two notable examples.

    PacifISM is otherwise contrary to historic Orthodox teaching, as that Church's liturgical texts and sanctoral calendar so vividly illustrate.

  12. The editorial was apparently authored by Archbishop Oscar Cruz, the dean of Filipino canonists.

    It's a shame the archbishop penned an emotional rant instead of a thoughtful discourse. He's going to have to issue a public apology for calling the Catholic Church and the Holy Father "fools."

  13. Anonymous1:28 PM

    -I wont be trite in this reply. If your going to refer to earlier Byzantine saints involved in wars don't forget the "warrior saints" that the Byzantines revered - St George and St Theodore - I believe there is a lovely icon with these two in St Catherines in the Sinai.
    -similarly, issues concerning soldiers and their permission to participate in the military (and by extension wars) are addressed at least, off the top of my head, at the Council of Arles and Nicaea (4th C for both of them) and I'm sure many more could be dug up as desired.
    *correct me if I'm wrong on these as I'm not a Christian but have an interest in the faith.

  14. Anonymous4:48 PM

    So the author of this peace believes that there are no just wars, but believes it is just to overthrow the President?

  15. Anonymous5:53 PM

    Son of trypho:


    Aren't you and I in agreement?

  16. Anonymous10:51 PM

    I have been to the Divine Liturgy in the Melkite Rite. I remember some strongly-worded prayers for the military forces, and I don't mean for their conversion.


  17. Anonymous8:22 AM

    There are many soldiers, e.g. the Martyrs of Rome, who fell in the 262 AD and 303 AD under the Diocletian persecution. They had served initially the pagan (sic!) Roman Emperor faithfully. I always compare the Wehrmacht soldiers of Germany and their justification for entering war against the Soviet Union in Hitler's armed forces, with these Martyrs, who also served an Empire and a pagan divinized Emperor. By arms.

    The Eastern Churches, both the Catholic and the dissident Orthodox schismatic ones, do not oppose a just war. And the Moscow Patriarchate even blesses arms, as does the Patriarchate of Serbia. In Constantinople the ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew I of course does not: it would earn him a bloody persecution by the secularist Nationalist Turkish armed forces, I fear, were he ever to bless arms for Greece or the few remaining members of the Greek minority in now Turkish-occupied Thrace.

    I remember that the Russian Orthodox Church Outside Russia (ROCOR) blessed the arms of the White movement Russians who fought in the Spanish Civil War side by side for Liberation with Generalissimo Franco against the Red, Marxist, Trotskist, Anarchist and Stalinist satanical forces of the 2nd Spanish Republic and its perverted demonic government.

    Of course the political participation and power of bishops and priests in the Latin Church made some bishops and even some popes ride horses during battle and even fight themselves. The Teutonic Order of Knights (Warrior-Monks) is also a fine example of this, see the Marienburg Castle in Marienburg (now: Malbork, in modern Poland) in West Prussia at the banks of the Vistula. Or the Knights Templar, who had many priests among them.

    I think the clerical moritorium in the East is more perfect, but it is mere discipline. Just like I would never say that celibacy must be imposed upon the Byzantine clerics of lower rank, likewise they should not dare tell me that Latin bishops were heretics or sinners just for defending their lands against Moors, Ottomans, Saracens or pagan Baltic Old Prussian tribes.

  18. Anonymous3:53 PM

    It should be kept in mind that the moratorium in the East against clerics bearing arms has also always been the discipline in the West, dispensed with only under grave circumstances.

    I don't know whether there is such a tradition of exceptions being made in the East. I do know that for a while Montenegro was an effective theocracy governed by an Eastern Orthodox prince-bishop. Certainly he would have commanded troops.

  19. Anonymous12:36 AM


  20. Anonymous3:22 AM

    King David, with a heart after God's own, and always asking His permission?

  21. Anonymous5:39 PM

    Would it be just for a country to defend itself from an unjust attack? If so, wouldn't the result from the viewpoint of the defending country be a just war? Hence, for every unjust war, there may be a just war. A blanket statement of "no unjust wars" simply is not correct. A country always has the right and even duty to protect itself from unjust aggression, even if the result may be a war.

    Miguel Andres


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