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396 • Part III. Christian Morality: The Faith Lived

the human race and the harm it inflicts on the poor is more than can be

endured” (CCC, no. 2329, citing GS, no. 81 §3).

While every possible means must be taken to avoid war, there are

times when a use of force by competent authority may be justified to

correct a manifest injustice, especially to defend against a threat to one’s

homeland. The tradition of the Church going back to St. Augustine

(AD 354-430) has developed the conditions for war to be moral.

These are known as the just-war conditions. They are listed as follows

in the



The strict conditions for

legitimate defense by military force

require rigorous consideration. The gravity of such a decision

makes it subject to rigorous standards of moral legitimacy. At

one and the same time:

—the damage inflicted by the aggressor on the nation or com-

munity 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 graver than the evil

to be eliminated. The power of modern means of destruction

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 responsibility for the common good. (CCC, no. 2309)

War may never be undertaken from a spirit of vengeance, but rather

from motives of self-defense and of establishing justice and right order.

The government has the right and duty to enlist citizens in defense of

the nation. Special provision should be made for those who refuse to

bear arms for reasons of conscience. These men and women should serve

their country in some other way.

The Church and human reason assert the permanent validity of

the moral law during armed conflict. Civilians, wounded soldiers, and