Pope Benedict XVI is making his first trip to the US this week.

And on the eve of this historic event I’d like to ask all of the readers who claim to be “good Catholics” a question: how do you rationalize the differences between the current teachings and positions of the church with your own beliefs?

I would never claim to be a good Catholic by any stretch of the imagination. I haven’t been to church in years- and even then it’s only been for weddings and funerals since I was a small child.

I lived with my girlfriend for half a decade before we ever got married. And I still believe everyone should have access to contraception and in women’s reproductive rights.

I also don’t think homosexuality is immoral and I think priests should be allowed to get married.

And I don’t expect the Church’s opinions – or mine – on any of these topics to change any time soon.

Fortunately, it turns out none of these topics (except maybe abortion) are at the top of the Pontiff’s list for his trip to the US.

Surprisingly, the message he plans to deliver here in the US matches up pretty well with stuff I believe.

First and foremost he’s going to discuss his disapproval of the US War in Iraq. Also the environment and poverty. All issues I can get behind.

Because I never claimed to be a ‘good Catholic’ I don’t really have a problem that some of the stuff doesn’t match with my beliefs and some does. I’m just happy the church is finally on the right side of some of these important issues.

But, again, back to my question… I’m wondering how all of the people who DO claim to be good Catholics can rationalize their pro-war beliefs with the anti-war message of the church.

Tagged with:
  • Interesting Pew piece on Catholics occupying a kind of “middle ground” in American religiosity.


  • Thoughts on Catholicism’s “Just War Doctrine”:


    The Iraq Debate: The War Was Just

    The Iraq Debate: The War Was Unjust

  • I don’t trust any research that includes Slovakians but not Slovenians.

  • Matt N.

    Behold, the Joseph, the wise theologian of the Ohio blogosphere. Thank you, wise Joseph, for your deep study and reflections on the Catechism. Your comments about St. Thomas Aquinas and other brilliant teachers of the just-war tradition, who discuss why war can become a moral duty in order to repel aggression, protection the innocent, and overturn injustice, is greatly appreciated.

    Oh wait… You are a moral relativist who has little respect or understanding for the history, traditions, and doctrinal consistency of the Catholic Church. Nevermind.

  • Are you a practicing Catholic Matt?

  • @4: I thought what Joe was pointing out was how Benedict was expressing opposition to the Iraq War and thus his opinion that it is not justified under the Just War Doctrine. Did I get that wrong?

    BTW, moral obsolutism is no more “moral” than moral relativism.

  • I think I was pretty clear: if the Pope says we shouldn’t be in Iraq how can you, as an observant Catholic, rationalize your continuing support for the war?

  • Matt N.

    Because, Joseph, any comments you might be referencing were not made ex cathedra.

    Yes, Eric, I am.

  • John Paul II stated before the 2003 war that this war would be a defeat for humanity which could not be morally or legally justified.

    In the weeks and months before the U.S. attacked Iraq, not only the Holy Father, but also one Cardinal and Archbishop after another at the Vatican spoke out against a “preemptive” or “preventive” strike. They declared that the just war theory could not justify such a war. Archbishop Jean-Louis Tauran said that such a “war of aggression” is a crime against peace. Archbishop Renato Martino, who used the same words in calling the possible military intervention a “crime against peace that cries out vengeance before God,” also criticized the pressure that the most powerful nations exerted on the less powerful ones on the U.N. Security Council to support the war. The Pope spoke out almost every day against war and in support of diplomatic efforts for peace.

    John Paul II sent his personal representative, Cardinal Pio Laghi, a friend of the Bush family, to remonstrate with the U.S. President before the war began. Pio Laghi said such a war would be illegal and unjust. The message was clear: God is not on your side if you invade Iraq.

    After the United States began its attacks against Iraq, FOX News actually reported the immediate comments of the Holy Father, made in an address at the Vatican to members of an Italian religious television channel, Telespace: “When war, as in these days in Iraq, threatens the fate of humanity, it is ever more urgent to proclaim, with a strong and decisive voice, that only peace is the road to follow to construct a more just and united society,” John Paul said. “Violence and arms can never resolve the problems of man.”

    Americans were largely unaware of the depth and importance of the opposition of Church leaders to an attack on Iraq, since for the most part the mainstream media did not carry the stories.


  • @8: That’s some really interesting hoops you’re jumping through there Matthew. You are not even making an attempt to fully practice your own faith.

  • I’m going to ironically launch a “preventative comment”:

    Conservatives distort papal legacy on Iraq war

  • Pope Benedict XVI on the Iraq War:

    “Is the war that has been announced against Iraq a just war? ‘All I can do is invite you to read the Catechism,’ Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger replied with a mischievous grin, ‘and the conclusion seems obvious to me?’ For the guardian of Catholic orthodoxy, the obvious conclusion is that the military intervention that is taking shape ‘has no moral justification’ (September 20, interview on the Italian national news program). The Catechism, Ratzinger explained, does not embrace a pacifist position a priori; indeed, it admits the possibility of a ‘just war’ for reasons of defense. But it sets a number of very strict and reasonable conditions: there must be a proper proportion between the evil to be rooted out and the means employed. In short, if in order to defend a value (in this case, national security) greater damage is caused (civilian victims, destabilization of the Middle East, with its accompanying risks of increased terrorism), then recourse to force is no longer justified. In light of these criteria, Ratzinger refuses to grant the moral status of just war to the military operation against Saddam Hussein. The Prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith added another consideration: ‘Decisions like this should be made by the community of nations, by the UN, and not by an individual power.’”

    It is perhaps paradoxical that in this grave international crisis the Holy See finds itself in a diplomatic and political position closer to the Social-Democratic Germany of Schroeder and the orthodox Russia of Putin than to the America of George W. Bush. But this is precisely the situation. And the Church, fortunately, does not let herself be imprisoned by partisan logic. Rather, she is one of the few “powers” free to have as her sole criterion the passion for truth and compassion for all men, especially the poorest and most defenseless.

  • I’d respect Matt more if he just said: I happen to disagree with the Pope on this one.

  • Matt N.

    Hardly… I disliked the idea of initially going into Iraq, and I’m hardly one to support nation building. In fact, this is the type of New York Times-style humanitarian war which Democrats would support if a Republican wasn’t in the White House!

    But the just war arguments are much more nuanced than the frame Joseph is trying to squeeze it into. And again, just like the issue of the death penalty and a few other controversial topics, no position about the Iraq War was given ex cathedra status.

    But as Michael Novak, a prolific Catholic theologian, pointed out today at NRO, the Pope SHOULD oppose war, and people who support the Iraq War should think the pope should be opposed to it:

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