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Forming good conscience and doctrine of just war Print
Letters to the editor
Thursday, Jan. 22, 2009 -- 1:00 AM

To the editor:

I want to thank Fr. Jim Murphy for his letter of 25 December, “Catholics should not serve in the U.S. military at this time.” Central to Catholic moral doctrine is that one must form a good conscience, reflecting a prayerful and studied approach to good conduct.

The doctrine of a just war requires that a person cannot in good conscience train oneself to kill, maim, or do violence to another who is a noncombatant. To train oneself to participate in the modern industrial and technological form of warfare is to violate this principle since one cannot avoid being complicit in such activity.

It is even questionable if one can, in good conscience, pay taxes to have others do this for you. If you cannot do it in good conscience, how can you pay others to do it in your place?

Catholic just war doctrine also requires that there be a proper proportion in the use of violence, not using more violence than necessary in achieving a just solution to conflict. Iraq and Afghanistan have no armies or navies, no air forces, and have not attacked the United States with such forces. What is called the “war on terrorism” is not warfare of any just proportion on any recognized nation or country with such forces. The air strikes in Iraq, Afghanistan, and Gaza by U.S. planes and missiles is a battle of David and Goliath, totally out of all proportion to a just war.

We must serve as examples to our children and fellow human beings and not participate in the unjust use of warfare, especially in objecting to training the young to act unjustly. Our Catholic high schools should raise these issues with youngsters who become the object of military recruiters, even coming to the campuses to entice them with offers of money and job training.

We older Catholics must consider whether we can in good conscience pay taxes for such unjust use of warfare. Conscientious objection to unjust wars is an old tradition in Catholic moral teaching.

Daniel J. Guilfoil, Monona