The deceptive and destructive core of the Christian just war doctrine can be stated very simply. It is the claim that wars, or at least some wars, and all the killing and destruction they entail, are good and right, even virtuous and meritorious, pleasing in the sight of God. This calls for a new species or category of homicide: “killing” that is radically distinct from “murder,” a distinction that hadn’t previously existed in Christian ethics. “Murder” violates the will of God and darkens the soul of the murderer, but the other, “new” kind of killing doesn’t. The difference lies not in the level of violence, death, suffering, and destruction involved but in the “intention” of the killer. If the intention is to do the will of God, to do good, which the Christian tradition identifies as the will of God as enunciated by the Bishops of the Church and their ordained spokespersons, then there can be no moral injury to the killer because there has been no moral infraction, no sin. If the intention is to do the will of God, then all is well in heaven and so on earth. Yet, the telling truth is that combat veterans, having followed the Church’s teaching and having the right intention, are haunted by what they have done in war.

 -Robert Emmet Meagher, Killing from the Inside Out

Yet, neither the Just War Churches nor their Just Warist bishops, priests and ministers are willing to hear, see and take seriously this hideous mega-fact of the consequences to Christians of doing what their Bishops told them was the will of God, that is, engaging in violence, indeed homicidal violence, in a so-called Christian Just War. They followed the moral teaching presented to them as the will of God and then were catapulted into a spiritual, moral, psychological and emotional maelstrom of self-hate, horror, shame, guilt and despair.

Twenty-two U.S. veterans per day commit suicide, and in every major war since Korea more U.S. veterans have taken their own lives than have been killed in combat in wars that the Bishops and Church allowed to pass as just wars. When doing good by participating in a Church designated good Christian act, e.g., a Christian Just War, drives prodigious numbers of Christians to metal breakdown (PTSD) and/or to suicide, then there is something fallacious at best and heinous at worst with Bishops and their ordained subordinates proclaiming to those in their spiritual and moral care that Christian Just War Theories are in conformity with the will of God and the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

Ask your Bishop and your priest or minister about this. Ask them why this indisputable fact of the loathsome and large scale spiritual, moral, psychological and emotional destruction that ensues from participating in a Christian just war has never even once been brought up as an issue for reflection and discussion at any of the U.S. national episcopal conferences. Ask them what matters are more important than this, especially since they are proclaiming daily with vigor, via all their communications avenues, the goodness of Christian Just War Theory  to the Christian adults and to the Christian children of the U.S. and around the world.

-Emmanuel Charles McCarthy

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