Something to chew on: Peter Steinfels looks at three viewpoints on Catholicism and the definition of just war: George Weigel in First Things, a response editorial in Commonweal and an article in America.
In his latest essay, Mr. Weigel grapples with the fact that those costs have become painfully evident, and the larger concerns of security, justice and freedom increasingly elusory. Now his case for war scarcely mentions the earlier suspicion of weapons of mass destruction but stresses a need to defeat jihadi terrorism and establish responsible government and peace throughout the Middle East.
He laments “mistakes made by analysts and U.S. policy makers,” who remain unidentified except for the “convenient scapegoat,” Donald H. Rumsfeld. Finally, he defends the administration’s latest strategy against an alternative that he defines simply as “we’re out.”
In all this, he merely alludes to his earlier critique of the “presumption against war” and makes no mention of the “charism of political discernment.” But his animus toward antiwar religious leaders is unabated.
Which is what struck the editors of Commonweal, who have consistently opposed the war. In contrast to the second thoughts of many liberals originally convinced of the Iraq war’s necessity, the editors note, “no such admissions of error, or even regret, have been issued by outspoken Catholic neoconservatives.” Does Mr. Weigel’s long list of American miscalculations, they wonder, “cast doubt on his claim” about the government’s “charism of political discernment”? Reviewing the prudential warnings and moral qualms issued by the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, “it is hard not to conclude,” the editors write, “that the bishops’ charism, rather than the president’s, has better served the nation.”
Both Commonweal and Monsignor McElroy, in America magazine, deny that given the potential destructiveness of modern warfare, just-war teaching has been deformed by making a “presumption against war” its starting point. To reject this development, Monsignor McElroy writes, reduces “a living, breathing moral tradition” to “a historical artifact.”
“One implication of this strong presumption against war,” Monsignor McElroy adds, is that “moral scrutiny of the decision to wage war should take place not merely at the beginning of a conflict, but at every stage of its duration.”