Must We Always Kill the One We love?

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Charles Colson has devoted the last twenty years to ministering prison inmates. Magnificent act of charity! But lately he has warmed up to the idea of killing people as an act of charity. “The failure to fight a just war may be a failure to love.”

He invokes ST. Thomas Aquinas in defense of his argument. “Thomas Aquinas in the Summa Theologica puts his discussion of just war in his chapter on charity—the love of God and neighbor. Aquinas applauded those who wielded the sword in protection of the community.”

Wow, that’s just too misleading. St. Thomas is not saying that war is an act of charity. St. Thomas puts his discussion here to illustrate that war is a failure of charity, just as with sloth, envy, strife, and hated. That is to say, it is usually a sin. In other words, Colson gets the reason for the placement backwards.

St. Thomas said that war can be just and is thus permitted it when rightful authority declares it, when the cause is just (i.e. purely defensive), and when the intention are right—and though this is a judgment call (which must not be left to the state), these three conditions would seem to rule out nearly every war in human history.

He quotes Augustine: “The passion for inflicting harm, the cruel thirst for vengeance, an unpacific and relentless spirit, the fever of revolt, the lust of power, and such like things, all these are rightly condemned in war.”

Nowhere does St. Thomas “applaud” warriors. His highest praise is that “it is meritorious to wage a just war”—again, qualified in the most strict sense. Even then, he forbids clerics from engaging in it. “It is altogether unlawful for clerics to fight, because war is directed to the shedding of blood.”

The Bush wars are waged by competent authority only if you believe that the US should rightly own the whole world. They are defensive only if you believe the lies. They are well intentioned if you believe that power and greed have nothing to do them. The Bush regime is not showing love to the countries it has invaded and smashed.

10:42 am on June 1, 2005