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Symposium applies Aquinas to Iraq war

Sarah Mayer | Tuesday, January 29, 2008

At the 11th-annual Saint Mary’s symposium on Saint Thomas Aquinas on Monday, Timothy Renick, a theologian from Georgia State University, spoke about lessons Aquinas might teach about the current war in Iraq.

The College holds a symposium each year on Jan. 28, the feast day of Aquinas, to honor excellent teaching. Aquinas, a 13th-century Dominican, was a scholar who taught theology and wrote the famous work Summa Theologica.

Renick opened by speaking about the current situation in Iraq.

“On May 1, 2003, President George W. Bush walked off the U.S.S. Abraham Lincoln with a banner behind him that read ‘Mission Accomplished’ and stated how major combat operations in Iraq have stopped,” he said.

Renick then cited several statistics. In March and April of 2003, 138 Americans were killed. Since then, 3,854 have died. He said that, according to the Washington Post, 655,000 Iraqi civilians have been killed in the war as of last week.

After giving background on Iraq, Renick incorporated the teachings of Aquinas. According to Aquinas, “War is only to be entered as last resort.”

Renick said Aquinas would only approve of a war with cold hard evidence that it is just and necessary.

“According to George W. Bush, the United States had enough history and facts to believe that [Saddam] Hussein posed a great danger to the United States,” Renick said. “He continued to say that Bush insisted Hussein was harboring chemical warfare and keeping him on the loose was a risk the United States just could not take.”

But, Renick said, Aquinas would take issue with this as a justification for war.

“According to Saint Thomas Aquinas, just speculation that the weapons were in his possession were not enough,” he said.

Renick brought up the fact that since St. Thomas Aquinas lived in the Holy Roman Empire, he was constantly surrounded by the Crusades.

“If Aquinas has not left a historical teaching on Christian versus Christian war with any evidence of opposing it, then we can conclude that there was sufficient evidence for the fighting,” Renick said.

He concluded that Aquinas would only approve of warfare in the “rarest of circumstances” and would still find it risky.