This past weekend a new movie came out, and this movie coincides with a very important day in American and world history. On August 6, we will remember the anniversary of the dropping of the atomic bomb on cities in Japan. The movie is about the creator of the devastating bomb - Oppenheimer. I haven't seen the movie yet, but thought this movie release and the anniversary of this horrible event was worth some reflection and attention, and from a Catholic perspective.
Most Americans hold the view that the dropping of this bomb was justifiable and so they were and still are supportive. A Gallup poll taken in August 1945 found that 85 percent of Americans supported the bombings, 10 percent were opposed to them, and 5 percent had no opinion. This is very interesting. I could not find definitive statistics breaking down American Catholic views on this event, but I do believe it reasonable to say that there were and still are many American Catholics who support and defend the decision to drop these bombs. The dropping of these bombs after all did presumably save thousands, if not tens of thousands of American lives. That really is a presumption, we don't know what might have happened had other resources been taken, do we? Defending evil actions on presumptions can be very dangerous waters to tread into. Those who use this type of rationale to defend acts such as those against Hiroshima and Nagasaki, will inevitably use the same rationale to justify and condone other evil actions and behavior. This does become a slippery slope, and I think we are victims of this slippery slope in our current culture and lifestyles.
The Catechism of the Catholic Church states:
“Every act of war directed to the indiscriminate destruction of whole cities or vast areas with their inhabitants is a crime against God and man, which merits firm and unequivocal condemnation.” A danger of modern warfare is that it provides the opportunity to those who possess modern scientific weapons—especially atomic, biological, or chemical weapons—to commit such crimes. (CCC 2314).
Catholics can support just wars, but for a war to be just the acts of combat in that war must be just. The indiscriminate killing of civilians is never considered just, and so conclusively this means this horrible event and action was not just, and should be condemned and not supported by Catholics.
I know, this is probably a very hard pill for many of us to swallow. I heard the arguments in my pre-reversion days, and I too in my ignorant and cafeteria style dedication to the Faith agreed with the justification for this action. As I continue to learn and become more devout and devoting to the actual teaching of the Catholic Church, I recognize how wrong I was. One of the most basic principles of Catholic Moral Theology is "the ends do not justify the means". No immoral or unjust action can ever lead to a holy, good and just outcome. It is impossible. As I continue to study and try to understand the complexities of Catholic Moral Theology, I realize just how blessed we are to have a Church authority that guides us on these issues. I have also come to recognize the lack of prudence disregarding these teaching can be, and how they can lead to self destruction - both in body and soul. This applies to all and every area of our lives.
We are so blessed to have a Magisterium to issue their guidance and wisdom when encountering such dilemmas. Most are not of the magnitude of an atomic bomb, thank goodness. Yet the every day moral decisions we encounter can be just as devestating to our souls, when we neglect what the church teaches and dictates and go it on our own. This is a very prideful pursuit.
Christ established a Church to give us guidance on all sorts of issues, so we could live lives directed toward holiness. The chaos and destruction we witness when not following these guidelines and dictates are certainly the weapons of Satan, and lead us toward his goals for humanity. If we believe the Church is guided by the Holy Spirit and has authoritative bodies which are infallible, which is what the Church teaches and why they exist, then we must follow what they decide, whether we agree with them or not. Some of the most common and individual issues we face can be the most damning. We can make our own determinations regarding our life choices. It is personal and individual, but no sin is private, they all carriy consequences not only for us, but for others as well. Honestly, when you start to study and understand why the Church teaches what it does, all the peices start to come together and we can find peace in that. We really can have peace in this life, if we follow Christ and HIs Church.
When it comes to national political policies and actions, that becomes much more difficult. We are in the throes of these wars every day, they might not be as dramatic as an atomic bombing of civilian cities on the other side of the world, but they are immoral actions against faceless human beings. They can be just, as if not more devastating, such as the issue of abortion. People we don't know, and can't see. The thing is we can control outcomes toward the morality of actions more than we realize, by aligning ourselves with Church teaching and vocally defending it. We are first and foremost Catholic. We are weak when divided, and strong united. We must not relinquish our Catholic identify for our American one, or our Democratic one, or our Conservative Republican one. Our Catholic identity will live on forever, all the others will not. If all Catholics would just be Catholic, we could change the world for Christ, and shut down the evil one. If only.
So, please, let's look to the church when facing difficult and even not so difficult moral decisions. Let's not take on such grave topics on our own. We don't have to, Jesus ensured and gifted us that. Let's not get out on a limb by rejecting this gift. The teaching of the church should mold and shape everything we do, say, and believe. It let's us off the hook! It truly is freeing, if embraced. It is not just our mortal existence hanging in the balance, it is our immortal one as well.