Saturday, June 01, 2002

More on The Bomb

E.L. Core has posted some comments in agreement with my argument against the atomic bombing of Japan on his new blog.

On the other hand, Mark Sullivan at Ad Orientem (an excellent Catholic blog focusing primarily -- but not exclusively -- on things liturgical) disagrees.

Mark's argument is basically this: dropping the bombs was justified because it saved more innocent lives than it killed and it ended a war that caused untold suffering (Mark also points to the fighting "character" of the Japanese).

While I understand Mark's argument, I have to disagree. As Catholics who uphold the unique dignity of every human being -- even of those against whom we may have to fight -- we cannot perform a numerical analysis to determine the pluses and minuses of a particular action in order to decide how to act. Although I'm sure that it was not at all his intention, Mark's argument sounds dangerously like that of ethical utilitarians, who argue that the best course of action is that which maximizes pleasure (or money, or power, or whatever standard you choose) and minimizes pain & suffering, regardless of the nature of the act itself.

Such a view clearly runs against Catholic moral thought. Some acts are -- in and of themselves -- immoral, and no circumstances can mitigate that reality. Intentionally killing thousands of civilians is such an act, as Vatican II unequivocally stated in Gaudium et Spes, n. 80:
Any act of war aimed indiscriminately at the destruction of entire cities or extensive areas along with their population is a crime against God and man himself. It merits unequivocal and unhesitating condemnation.

Am I glad World War II ended, and that we were the victors? Certainly. Do I esteem our veterans? With the highest respect. But in seeking a victorious outcome in a cause that is just, we must make sure that we maintain our moral code, and that we carry out our cause without deliberately, intentionally, and consciously wiping out large populations of civilians or committing similar atrocities.

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