This excellent post, and the article and book it links to, encapsulates a point I’ve tried to make (less effectively, alas) in blog discussions I’ve had in the past. This may be a springboard to later posts of my own on this topic, which has ramifications in other areas, too.
If this historical assessment is right, my “radical” interpretation of just war doctrine (as intended not to offer moral liceity for those seeking to use violence but pastoral exculpation after the fact for the sin of having used violence) is not radical at all, it’s exactly what just war doctrine is – a form of moral casuistry by which the grave material sin of taking life is not fully subjectively imputable to the moral agent, and hence at most venially sinful and no barrier to the reception of the sacraments.
The rules of “just war” were not developed in courts by religious advisers keen to justify war. Rather, the tradition took shape largely in the setting of the confessional. It was codified in canon law by priests who wanted to limit the brutality of war and who were responding to a very practical question: Should knights returning…
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