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July 14, 2006
The Vatican Rag (Updated)

The Vatican finally issued a statement on the conflict in Lebanon, and Catholics around the world -- including yours truly -- will wish that the Holy See had remained quiet. Despite the attack on Israel by Hezbollah, a member of the Lebanese government, the Vatican blames Israel for defending itself militarily:

The Vatican on Friday strongly deplored Israel's strikes on Lebanon, saying they were "an attack" on a sovereign and free nation.

Vatican Secretary of State Cardinal Angelo Sodano said Pope Benedict and his aides were very worried that the developments in the Middle East risked degenerating into "a conflict with international repercussions."

"In particular, the Holy See deplores right now the attack on Lebanon, a free and sovereign nation, and assures its closeness to these people who already have suffered so much to defend their independence," he told Vatican Radio. ...

Sodano reserved his harshest words for Israel. "The right of defence on the part of a state does not exempt it from its responsibility to respect international law, particularly regarding the safeguarding of civilian populations," he said.

Forgive me, Father Sodano, but that argument has no bearing on reality. I do not necessarilly think that attacking Lebanon makes the best strategy, but Israel has plenty of justification for it. The attack on Israel also came against a "free and sovereign nation". Hezbollah's armed forces exist with the complicity of the Lebanese government, and they launched their attacks from Lebanon's sovereign territory. That constitutes an act of war, and Israel has the right to respond militarily to destroy the threat to their own sovereignty.

In fact, Israel thus far has attempted to make their attacks as surgical as possible, both to protect non-combatants and to focus their might on Hezbollah rather than the Lebanese people as a whole. Hezbollah, in contrast, just shoots rockets and missiles into civilian population centers with no precision or attempt to minimize civilian casualties. Typically, the Vatican takes no note of any of this.

This statement plays out along an argument that the Islamists hoped they would see from Europe as a whole: disproportionate response. The Vatican has the same fallacious notion that a nation attacked in an act of war should only respond in proportion to the original attack. Unfortunately for the dreamers at the Vatican, nations do not fight wars in that manner unless they want to lose them. When one nation attacks another, the path to victory comes with an application of overwhelming force, the kind of attack that strips the antagonist of any ability to wage war. Otherwise, what results is an unednding tit-for-tat volley that favors the the smaller forces; it's the perfect recipe for asymmetrical warfare. Instead of limiting the damage, it guarantees that low-level war will continue indefinitely, killing and maiming people for decades.

Perhaps the Vatican should keep all of this in mind before sending Father Sedano out to blame the victim for responding appropriately to an act of war. Better yet, perhaps Fr. Sedano should get reassigned to a different post -- maybe rendering aid to the people of northern Israel wounded from the missile attacks.

UPDATE: In answer to LiberalGoodman's comment about 'following the Mother Church' and a supposed inconsistency between supporting Church positions on abortion and gay marriage, let me explain a few things about the Roman Catholic Church. First of all, the Catechism -- the tenets of the faith -- explicitly forbids abortion under any circumstances. Paragraph 2270 puts it quite plainly:

Human life must be respected and protected absolutely from the moment of conception. From the first moment of his existence, a human being must be recognized as having the rights of a person - among which is the inviolable right of every innocent being to life. ... Formal cooperation in an abortion constitutes a grave offense. The Church attaches the canonical penalty of excommunication to this crime against human life. "A person who procures a completed abortion incurs excommunication latae sententiae,"77 "by the very commission of the offense,"78 and subject to the conditions provided by Canon Law.79 The Church does not thereby intend to restrict the scope of mercy. Rather, she makes clear the gravity of the crime committed, the irreparable harm done to the innocent who is put to death, as well as to the parents and the whole of society.

The catechism does not forbid war, contrary to popular belief, especially in self-defense. The catechism spells out the qualifications of a "just war", one undertaken within the tenets of Christianity, as St. Thomas Aquinas first postulated almost a millenium ago. Paragraph 2309 has the requisites:

1. the damage inflicted by the aggressor on the nation or community of nations must be lasting, grave, and certain;

2. all other means of putting an end to it must have been shown to be impractical or ineffective;

3. there must be serious prospects of success;

4. the use of arms must not produce evils and disorders graver than the evil to be eliminated. The power of modern means of destruction weighs very heavily in evaluating this condition.

Obviously , the Church is no fan of war -- but in this case, Sodano didn't even bother to note that Israel was not the aggressor in this exchange, nor did Sodano make any kind of case that this war didn't meet those requisites.

One final point has to be made on papal infallibility, which LG did not mention but appears to reference in his assertions. Papal infallibility only occurs when the Pope speaks ex cathedra on matters of doctrine. The last time this happened was in 1950, when Pius XII promulgated the doctrine of the Assumption of Mary.

Catholics, contrary to popular belief, are not required to agree with every opinion of the Pope -- but we do have to support the catechism and the bedrock teachings of the Church, or we cease to be in communion with the Eucharist. Thst's the part that LG fails to comprehend, as his comment shows very clearly.

Note: Welcome to readers of The Anchoress!

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Posted by Ed Morrissey at July 14, 2006 9:49 AM

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