The Church should reject Just War theory and revaluate its teaching on conflict, according to a Vatican conference on non-violence.
A gathering organised by Pax Christi International with the backing of the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace said the teaching should now be replaced with a “Just Peace” approach.
“We believe that there is no ‘just war,’ ” a statement released at the end of the conference today said. “Too often the ‘just war theory’ has been used to endorse rather than prevent or limit war.”
The statement is backed by Cardinal Peter Turkson, president of the pontifical council, who has also agreed to present a letter to Pope Francis on the topic.
It went on: “We need a new framework that is consistent with Gospel nonviolence…We propose that the Catholic Church develop and consider shifting to a Just Peace approach. A Just Peace approach offers a vision and an ethic to build peace as well as to prevent, defuse, and to heal the damage of conflict.”
Just War theory, developed by St Augustine and St Thomas Aquinas, puts forward a number of criteria permitting conflict, including that the war must bring peace, that it is the last resort and is not for self-gain.
Pope Francis has called for the “abolition of war” but has suggested, in the case of violence perpetrated on Islamic State (IS), war is permissible to stop the “unjust aggressor”. Last year the Vatican backed a United Nations resolution backing international force to stop IS.
But Marie Dennis, co-president of Pax Christi International, said at a press conference in the Vatican today said the answer was to stop such violence through non-violent means.
“As long as we say dropping bombs solve the problems, we won’t find other solutions,” she said.
Another of the participants Archbishop John Odama, chairman of the Ugandan Bishops’ Conference, said that the conditions for just war set out in the catechism means that “in reality” war should not take place.
“Violence is out of date for our world of today,” he said. “Some say just war can be promoted. Which war is this? There is no justice in destruction of human lives.”
Elsewhere, the statement calls on the Pope to write an encyclical on peace and non-violence and for Catholic institutions to no longer use or teach Just War theory.
It states: “Clearly, the Word of God, the witness of Jesus, should never be used to justify violence, injustice or war. We confess the people of God have betrayed this central message of the Gospel many times, participating in wars, persecution, oppression, exploitation, and discrimination.”