The Catholic tradition includes a highly-developed theory concerning the conditions for just war which should inform our judgements about war in our own time. However, to adequately consider just war theory, it is necessary first to remove the discussion from the passions surrounding any particular war.For this reason, we begin with Bishop Fulton Sheen's popular consideration of the principles of just war from what now seems like another era, the 1940's. This fairly represents the state of the question prior to any recent conflicts.Next we turn to a more academic presentation of the history of just war theory, including the impact of the threat of nuclear war which has caused the tradition to be neglected or distorted in various respects.Finally, we look at the effort to revive just war theory in our own day, including those developments which attempt to take into account new methods of contemporary warfare, including terrorism.In all this it is important to remember that just war theory provides a moral framework within which to make prudential decisions about circumstances which may be widely disputed. Therefore, while the moral framework is indispensable to the Christian, men of good will can still reach differing conclusions on how it pertains to real, and often murky, practical situations.
If you only have time to look at three things, LOOK AT THESE.
- Conditions of a Just War
- Just War, as It Was and Is
- Just-War Theory, Catholic Morality, and the Response to International Terrorism
And if you've got more time...
Just War theory represents a long tradition of Catholic thought which has not been fully articulated in any single Magisterial document. For a summary of the principles that have been officially enunciated by the Holy See concerning war, it is wise to consult both the section on Safeguarding Peace in the Catechism of the Catholic Church and the broader treatment of peace and war found in the Compendium of the Social Doctrine of the Catholic Church, by the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace.