Last week, the Integritas program held its first seminar of the new semester. Prof. Dan Philpott of Notre Dame's Political Science and Peace Studies departments facilitated the discussion of "War, Peace, and Conscience." Students read about Just War Theory and pacifism, and we discussed why these are the two alternatives that a Christian can embrace, in thinking about international conflict. One student said he was especially struck by how the desire for peace was at the heart of both Just War Theory and pacifism, so that both approaches are intended to be truly peace-oriented.
Prof. Philpott explained that for Christians, the whole discussion comes down to the question: Can using lethal force against another human being be compatible with the love of Christ? If the answer is no, that you have committed yourself to pacifism, and if the answer is yes, then some version of Just War Theory is an option. We looked back at the development of the Church's thinking on this issue, from the time of Christ to the present day, noting that pacifism was a much stronger movement within the early Church, before Christianity was endorsed by Emperor Constantine, than it has been at any time since while Christianity has become a mainstream religion and Christians hold secular authority.
A heated debate developed over whether President Truman was right to drop atomic bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki to end World War II. The students struggled to come to terms with the Christian moral principle that intrinsic evils, such as the killing of innocent civilians, must always be avoided, and you can never do evil that good may come of it. It is a hard Christian truth that it is always better to suffer wrong than to do wrong, and to witness to that in a time of war requires a strong faith in the resurrection and hope for the coming of God's kingdom. We look forward to continuing the discussion on Feb. 16, when Fr. Bill Miscamble, Prof. David Solomon, and Prof. Mike Baxter will have a public discussion at 7:30 p.m. in the Hesburgh Center Auditorium on Truman's most controversial decision.