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Malloy discusses ‘just war’

John Tierney | Monday, April 28, 2008

Living by the just war theory is more essential now in the war on terror than ever, University President Emeritus Father Edward Malloy said in a lecture Friday.

“As far as Christians are concerned, there are two viable alternatives – just war theory or pacifism,” Malloy said.

Christianity began as a strictly pacifistic religion, according to Malloy. This pacifism was the result of both a strict interpretation of Biblical texts and the fact that Christians were a persecuted minority, and had no need for military power.

“If an alien comes from outer space and reads the text, Christianity would come out on the pacifist side,” he said. “But does [pacifism] have a realistic view of human nature?”

When Christianity became the official religion of the Roman Empire, followers were no longer able to be pacifistic.

“All of Christianity began to embrace just war theory, as an attempt to be realistic about evil and harm-doing,” Malloy said.

Just war theory, according to Malloy, is a very strict doctrine.

“Under Christian auspices, the horror of war tried to be contained,” he said. “It’s the closest thing we have to trying to get a handle on reducing the violence and destruction of war.”

Malloy said Christianity has embraced a third approach to warfare in its history – the Crusade, which originally began in 1090 under Pope Urban II, who wanted to find a common enemy around which Christian nations could rally.

Under the Crusades, there were horrors committed by both sides, and each side saw the other as the spawn of Satan, Malloy said.

The Crusades went hand-in-hand with the Inquisition, which conducted frequent purges and committed a number of atrocities.

While the Crusades and the Inquisition ended during the Enlightenment, “after 9/11, the great temptation in the face of terrorism is a return to the mentality of the Crusades and the practices of the Inquisition,” Malloy said.

Malloy spoke out against the return to the torture practices used by the Inquisition.

“In subsequent conversation, there has been a strong consensus in rejection of torture,” he said. “Waterboarding is torture and anyone who doesn’t think torture is horrible, volunteer to be tortured.”

Taking a just war approach is not an easy way out, Malloy said.

“It’s a very demanding way of holding people accountable. It calls for an expression of conscious in both the military and civilian leadership,” he said.

Malloy stressed the long-term reality of confronting terrorism.

“This is a horrible topic to talk about, but it’s not going to go away,” he said. “Ten years from now, there will be terrorism, and there will be fear.”