A Summary of Neo-Scholastic Doctrine on Just War Theory

Neo-Scholastic Doctrine on Just War TheoryA Summary of Neo-Scholastic Doctrine on Just War Theory.

Taking into account the varying opinions of the Neo-Scholastic authorities on several points, the following precisions of doctrine may now be made:

1. The right of war is odious. That this right exists in certain circumstances cannot be denied; but it is a regrettable necessity, and the main object of rulers should be to prevent the necessity of arising.

2. A declaration of war – other than a war of self-defense against actual attack – is a penal act, justifiable only if an injury has been committed so great as to require the gravest penalty.

3. The penal jurisdiction required for the declaration of war is necessary for the preservation of order in human society and is conferred upon sovereigns in the absence of a higher tribunal.

4. If the possibility of recourse to the arbitration of the Holy See or another competent tribunal exists, this penal jurisdiction may not be exercised by a prince.

5. If any doubt exists concerning the justice of his claims the prince may not resort to arms. In such a case both disputants are under an obligation to choose arbitrators or mediators and to abide by their decision.

6. Even if a certainly just cause of war exists, the prince must refrain from going to war if the losses resulting from war to the belligerent states, the whole community of nations or the Church are likely to be so great as to outweigh the advantages of repairing the injury done.

7. Soldiers are bound to examine the justice of a proposed war. If uncertain of the justice of the cause their duty is to obey their commanders. If certain of the injustice of the cause they are to refuse to fight.

8. All those who hold office or have any political responsibility in the state are bound in conscience to examine carefully the rights and wrongs of a proposed declaration of war.

9. War may not be waged on the personal authority of the sovereign, but only after the advice of wise and impartial men has been sought, and after the claims of the opposing side have been carefully weighed.

The Catholic Tradition of the Law of Nations, John Eppstein –


– Lucas G. Westman

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