Vatican conference hopes to topple just war theory

Participants in a Vatican conference are hoping to see just war theory dislodged as a leading framework for Catholic response to violence.

Eighty experts engaged in global non-violent struggles have gathered this week to develop a new moral framework that rejects ethical justifications for war.

They also hope Pope Francis’s next excyclical will be on peacemaking, and that it will pick up their concerns.

The conference from April 11 to 13 is being co-hosted by the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace and Pax Christi International.

Terrence Rynne, a US theologian who is attending the event, said he considers it “phenomenally important”.

“Coming out of it, Pope Francis might see his way clear to articulate a fresh vision of peacemaking to the Church,” said Rynne.

Conference organisers said that just war teaching “can no longer claim centre stage as the Christian approach to war and peace”.

“After more than 1500 years and repeated use of the just war criteria to sanction war rather than to prevent war, the Catholic Church, like many other Christian communities, is rereading the text of Jesus’ life and re-appropriating the Christian vocation of pro-active peacemaking,” they stated.

“Emphasising the need to work for a just peace, the Church is moving away from the acceptability of calling war ‘just’,” they continued.

“While clear ethical criteria are necessary for addressing egregious attacks or threats in a violent world, moral theologians and ethicists should no longer refer to such criteria as the ‘just war theory’, because that language undermines the moral imperative to develop tools and capacity for nonviolent conflict.”

As part of their goals for the conference, organisers state they seek a “new articulation of Catholic teaching on war and peace, including explicit rejection of ‘just war’ language”.

They state that they want “an alternative ethical framework for engaging acute conflict and atrocities by developing the themes and practices of nonviolent conflict transformation and just peace”.


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