William McGurn: How much of a pacifist IS the Pope?

Wall Street Journal editor William McGurn addresses characterizations of the Holy Father as a pacifist in a recent editorial (War No More?: How much of a pacifist is the pope?), and questions whether the Vatican’s current opposition to the war in Iraq reflects “not simply a disagreement over Iraq but a strain in John Paul’s thinking that sits uncomfortably with 1,500 years of Catholic teaching on the legitimate use to force”.

Archbishop Renato Martino, head of the Pontifical Council for Peace and Justice, has stated that the classic just-war teaching of the Church may be headed the way of the death penalty, namely, that nations have recourse to alternatives to war that “make it all but impossible to justify in practice.” Such revisions to just-war doctrine, says McGurn, provokes further questions: “Namely, how President Bush can be held in breach of moral criteria that (a) are in the process of being radically revised and (b) really can’t be met anyhow.”

Archbishop Martino characterized the American response to Iraq as replying with “bombs to a people that has been asking for bread for the last 12 years.” The Vatican role, by contrast, would be to play the “the Good Samaritan who kneels to tend the wounds of an injured, weak nation.”

Which begs a question: If the biblical Good Samaritan had arrived on the scene a little earlier and stumbled on the robbers instead of their victim, what would have been his obligation?

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