Catechism of the Catholic Church

556 Part Three However, “as long as the danger of war persists and there is no international authority with the necessary competence and power, governments cannot be denied the right of lawful self-de­ fense, once all peace efforts have failed.” 106 2309 The strict conditions for legitimate defense by military force require rigorous consideration. The gravity of such a decision makes it subject to rigorous conditions of moral legitimacy. At one and the same time: — the damage inflictedby the aggressor on the nationor community of nations must be lasting, grave, and certain; — all other means of putting an end to it must have been shown to be impractical or ineffective; — there must be serious prospects of success; — the use of arms must not produce evils and disorders graver than the evil to be eliminated. The power of modern means of destruc­ tion weighs very heavily in evaluating this condition. These are the traditional elements enumerated in what is called the “just war” doctrine. The evaluation of these conditions for moral legitimacy belongs to the prudential judgment of those who have responsibil­ ity for the common good. 2310 Public authorities, in this case, have the right and duty to impose on citizens the obligations necessary for national defense. Those who are sworn to serve their country in the armed forces are servants of the security and freedom of nations. If they carry out their duty honorably, they truly contribute to the com­ mon good of the nation and the maintenance of peace. 107 2311 Public authorities should make equitable provision for those who for reasons of conscience refuse to bear arms; these are nonetheless obliged to serve the human community in some other way. 108 2312 The Church and human reason both assert the permanent validity of the moral law during armed conflict. “The mere fact that war has regrettably broken out does not mean that everything becomes licit between the warring parties.” 109 106 GS 79 § 4. 107 Cf. GS 79 § 5. 108 Cf. GS 79 § 3. 109 GS 79 § 4. 2266 2243 1897 2239 1909 1782, 1790