Tag Archives: encyclical

The Christian does no harm even to his foe. — Tertullian

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In Christianity what is the appropriate response to aggression backed by force? There are, of course, the simple precepts found in the gospels to “turn the other cheek” and “love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you,” but does this necessarily rule out the use of force to deter such an act of aggression? On August 18, 2014, Pope Francis addressed this question in commenting on attacks perpetrated by ISIS against ethnic and religious minorities in Syria and Iraq. He endorsed the prospect of a United Nations intervention, noting:

In these cases, where there is an unjust aggression, I can only say that it is licit to stop the unjust aggressor […] I underscore the verb ‘stop.’ I’m not saying ‘bomb’ or ‘make war,’ just ‘stop.’ And the means that can be used to stop them must be evaluated. […] After World War II, the idea of the United Nations came about: It’s there that you must discuss, ‘Is there an unjust aggression? It seems so. How should we stop it?’ Just this. Nothing more.”(Business Insider)

The Vatican’s ambassador to the United Nations in Geneva, Archbishop Silvano Tomasi, clarified the Pope’s comment, stating, “Maybe military action is necessary at this moment.” (Business Insider) Is this standpoint consistent with Christian teachings?

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“Capitalism itself is not to be condemned. And surely it is not vicious of its very nature, but it has been vitiated.” — Pope Pius XI (1857-1939)

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Pope Francis continues to raise eyebrows with his public pronouncements, the most recent coming from the publication of his apostolic exhortation Evangelii Gaudium, in which he criticizes “an economy of exclusion and inequality.” (Evangellii Gaudium) In news reports discussing the publication of Evangelli Gaudium, it is said Pope Francis calls “unfettered capitalism tyranny and urges rich to share wealth.” (Guardian) This led to mixed responses, which is not at all surprising. President Obama cited a portion of the document–seemingly in agreement with Pope Francis–in a speech on inequality in US society, observing “some of you may have seen just last week the pope himself spoke about this at eloquent length. How can it be, he wrote, that it’s not a news item when an elderly homeless person dies of exposure, but it is news when the stock market loses two points. But this increasing inequality is most pronounced in our country. And it challenges the very essence of who we are as a people.” (as cited in SALON) A far less temperate response was delivered by the conservative pundit, Rush Limbaugh, who retorted, “This is the president citing the pope, his new best friend, because the pope is ripping America, the pope [is] ripping capitalism… and Obama’s having an orgasm. Jeremiah Wright is beside himself. Jeremiah Wright thought he was Obama’s preacher, now [the] pope somehow has co-opted Obama.” (as cited in SALON) Continue reading