Father Barron and the Bomb

Here is a guest post by Greg Mockeridge:


It should go without saying that readers of TAC are familiar with the work of Fr. (soon to be bishop) Barron. His presence on You Tube is ubiquitous. He has also produced the Catholicism series, featured not only on Catholic media outlets like EWTN, but also on secular outlets like Pbs. In and of themselves, using outlets such as these to get the message of the Church out are commendable. And certainly Fr. Barron has done some good work along these lines and has earned a rather immense popularity as a result. Again, in and of itself, being popular is not a bad thing. But popularity can be just as dangerous in Catholic circles as in secular circles. In fact, I would say it is even more dangerous in Catholic circles than secular, given that it is done under the aegis of Catholic orthodoxy.

Any honest Catholic who has paid attention to what has gone on in popular orthodox Catholic circles cannot deny that there are serious problems with the way many Catholics, clergy and lay alike, prominent in orthodox circles have conducted themselves over at least the last decade. For example, we have seen the mean spirited and calumnious treatment by Mark Shea of those, Catholic and non-Catholic, who take views on geopolitical matters that conflict with his. It doesn’t matter to Shea that such views are both consistent with Catholic teaching and factually compelling. Even worse is the manner with which bishops like Archbishops Chaput and Cordileone speak on matters such as capital punishment, going to the extreme of falsely asserting that the death penalty system is administered in a racist manner against minorities. We have also seen Cardinal Timothy Dolan engage in race baiting calumny against the state of Arizona over SB 1070, which allows, pursuant to what has been federal law since 1940, for local law enforcement to inquire about the immigration status of those they have reason to believe are in the country illegally. We also have the scandal of the USCCB, in their annual Fortnight for Freedom campaign, listing certain state immigration laws as violations of religious liberty equal to that of the Obama Goonsquad (err Administration) forcing employers to provide coverage for contraception in their health insurance plans, despite conscience objections baed on religious conviction. Equating these two things cannot by justified by any stretch of the Catholic imagination.
Although I wouldn’t say Fr. Barron has gone to the lengths of the examples listed above, he is not without his serious problems. I first saw problems with Fr Barron when he gave a glowing review of Ross Douthat’s book Bad Religion. This book was bad in its own right, bad research methodology and some bad religion of its own. Douthat nakedly  misrepresents Catholic teaching with regard to socio-economics as well as misrepresenting Michael Novak. Douthat’s portrayal of the torture issue is no different in substance than that of Mark Shea, sans the snark. How any respectable orthodox Catholic, much less one who is an influential cleric, can give a glowing review of such a dishonest piece of work is beyond baffling.
Then Fr. Barron, in this article for the National Review of all publications, draws parallels between the anti-Catholic sentiment of many of the American Founding Fathers and the pro-abortion movement of today. To be sure, many of our founders did harbor anti-Catholic sentiment, but to draw the parallels Fr. Barron did is not only without merit, but downright appalling. No such parallels are anywhere close to existent. I would say that the pro-abortion movement is not anti-Catholic as an end in itself, but sees Catholic opposition to abortion as a threat. In fact, these very same people are very favorable to the elements of Catholicism they think comports with their “social justice” worldview and often invoke it in an attempt to buttress their views.
So, it should be of no surprise that when Fr. Barron deals with an issue like the atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki (the 70th Anniversary of which passed a few days ago), his analysis would be woefully devoid of Catholic moral principles and a real good faith attempt to accurately present the circumstances within which President Truman made the decision to drop the atomic bombs.
Recently, I came across a video he did last year where he deals with the subject. In it, he confirms that hunch. And in the same manner he juxtaposes the anti-Catholic sentiment of our Founders with the pro-abortion movement of today, he does the same with drawing parallels with support for the bomb drops with rejecting Catholic sexual teaching. First of all, his assertion that “very few” wars in human history were just vis-a-vis Catholic moral teaching is a matter of opinion, namely his, not of fact. He repeatedly says “clearly” that things like carpet bombings as well as the atomic bombings did not comport with the principle of proportionality. Well, clearly, he is either ignorant of the circumstances within which these actions were taken or he is counting on the ignorance of his viewers. And, unfortunately, counting on the ignorance of many orthodox Catholics on issues like this is a well-founded assumption. Proportionality has do with the bad effect being avoided being greater than the bad effect inflicted. And in the cases he discusses, especially with regard to the atomic bombings, the case for the principle of proportionality being met is compelling. I would say it is incontrovertible. He says nothing about the principle of double effect and how it may apply to this situation.

Here’s the way Fr. Heribert Jone, considered a gold standard amongst orthodox Catholic moral theologians, outlined the moral principles regarding the use of atomic weapons:
The fourth condition required for positing an action that has an evil effect that there be a sufficient reason, i.e., a proportionate resulting good, to permit the evil effect. The morality of using either the atomic or hydrogen bomb as a weapon of war is therefore, not a question of principle, which remains unchangeable, but a question of fact, and the fact questioned is whether there can be a military objective so vital to an enemy, the destruction of which would be a sufficient reason to permit the death of a vast number of civilians who at most contribute only remotely and indirectly to the war effort. We think this proportion can exist 1) because today’s concept of “total war” has greatly restricted the meaning of the term “non-combatant”; 2) because in modern warfare the conscription of industry, as well as manpower, greatly extends the effort on the home front; and 3) because it is difficult to set limits to the defense action of a people whose physical and even spiritual existence is threatened by a godless tyranny. Therefore, while use of atomic weapons must be greatly restricted to the destruction of military objectives, nevertheless, it may be justified without doing violence to the principle of a twofold effect. (Moral Theology #219 pp. 143-44 1961 Edition)”
Looking at the circumstances Truman faced in 1945 through the lens of the above-stated principle will give us a sense of what a Catholic moral analysis of the atomic bombings should look like.
In his biography of Gen MacArthur, author William Manchester gives us a snapshot of the situation Truman faced:
Hirohito’s generals, grimly preparing for the invasion, had not abandoned hope of saving their homeland. Although a few strategic islands had been lost, they told each other, most of their conquests, including the Chinese heartland, were firmly in their hands, and the bulk of their army was undefeated. Even now they could scarcely believe that any foe would have the audacity to attempt landings in Japan itself. Allied troops, they boasted, would face the fiercest resistance in history. Over ten thousand kamikaze planes were readied for “Ketsu-Go,” Operation Decision. Behind the beaches, enormous connecting underground caves had been stocked with caches of food and thousands of tons of ammunition. Manning the nation’s ground defenses were 2,350,000 regular soldiers, 250,000 garrison troops, and 32,000,000 civilian militiamen, a total of 34,600,000, more than the combined armies of the United States, Great Britain, and Nazi Germany. All males aged fifteen to sixty, and all females ages seventeen to forty-five, had been conscripted. Their weapons included ancient bronze cannon, muzzle loaded muskets, bamboo spears, and bows and arrows. Even little children had been trained to strap explosives around their waists, roll under tank treads, and blow themselves up. They were called “Sherman’s carpets.” This was the enemy the Pentagon had learned to fear and hate,a country of fanatics dedicated to hara-kiri, determined to slay as many invaders as possible as they went down fighting. [American Caesar: Douglas MacArthur 1880-1964, pp. 510-511)]
Clearly, in this scenario, the term non-combatant was not only “greatly restricted” but rendered completely meaningless by the Empire of Japan. The entire country was turned into one large military base. This actually made it impossible, even with today’s weapons technology, for the U.S. to target non-combatants.
As to the issue of proportionality, the only viable alternatives, a land invasion and/or complete blockade, would have resulted in millions of Japanese deaths and hundreds of thousands of American deaths. Anything less than complete unconditional surrender would have left the militarists in charge of the Japanese government that would have been free to collude with the Soviet Union, setting in motion an unimaginably dangerous post WWII and Cold War scenario.
This is not to say non-combatants weren’t killed in the bombings and that untold suffering wasn’t visited upon innocent Japanese as a result of the atomic bombs. Oftentimes in war, innocents bear the brunt of even just military actions, particularly when an enemy cares little to nothing for the innocent. Terms like “collateral damage” and “double effect” sound like callous ways to describe justifying such actions, but they are the most correct. This is the tragic reality. The good must sometimes be cruel in its conquest of evil. And any Catholic moral analysis of situations like these that either misrepresents or ignores these principles is not worthy of being called a Catholic moral analysis. Such distortion are what make blanket condemnations of the atomic bombings by people like Elizabeth Anscombe and those who quote her so appalling. Anyone who quotes that woman as a credible source on the subject of Hiroshima and Nagasaki is admitting to you, albeit unwittingly, that they don’t know what they are talking about.
This is not to say that opposition to the bombings have no room in a Catholic conscience. I myself do not believe Truman had any morally viable alternative. But that’s just my view. I am not the Magisterium. Nor is any one single person, not even the pope, when merely giving his own private view. But any opposition must include an accurate understanding of circumstance itself and a thoughtful analysis in light of Catholic moral principles. I have yet to come across such opposition.
In my opening remarks, I placed this problem within the larger context of the problematic conduct of many prominent orthodox Catholics. This is something that has been a deep source of pain for me for many years. These people have garnered popularity for being committed to the truth. To be sure, many of these same people have done great work in that regard. And that is what makes their betrayal of the truth on serious matters like this all the more harmful. This problem is only compounded by the indifference of orthodox Catholics who are either their colleagues or those who look up to them.
In Luke 6:26, Our Lord warns “Woe to you when all men speak well of you…”. He doesn’t qualify that with, “Unless those men are in Church circles.” It is a warning we cannot fail to heed, especially in the times within which we live. If we are not willing to hold fellow Catholics to a Catholic standard, we have no business holding the world to it.

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  1. Great article. Fortunately for me, I have such an abrasive personality that the problem of the world liking me is very remote.

  2. What a terrible analysis. I gather it makes you feel good to think that the American experiment has been a Catholic project since the beginning. You are suffering from a bad case of Americanism– a heresy diagnosed by Pope Leo XIII in 1899 –and today is more virulent than ever. http://bit.ly/1QicjiA ,http://bit.ly/1dQBTyU The dropping of the bomb on Hiroshima and Nagasaki is not a close moral case. The problem is consequentialism –a moral heresy that since that day has become the most popular moral heresy in the postmodern world. http://bit.ly/1D7TKx5 It has been condemned by every pope since it happened and ever major Catholic theologian including Venerable Archbishop Fulton Sheen who, along with many others, believed that Hiroshima was far more than just a military /political operation (as you wish to analyze it) but a singular event that resulted in the moral chaos which gave rise to the Sexual Revolution and the Culture of Death. http://bit.ly/1gFpUpy

  3. “You are suffering from a bad case of Americanism”

    Ah, Americanism, the phantom heresy!


    Gibbons was on good terms with both Pope Leo, who gave him his cardinal’s cap, and Pope Pius of whom he wrote a biography. Americanism was an imaginary heresy, largely the result of Pope Leo XIII being ill-informed about conditions in America and paying too much heed to idiots among American clerics who delighted in attempting to stir up trouble over nothing. Modernism was a real enough heresy, although Pope Pius tended to throw the baby out with the bath water and completely orthodox Catholic scholars suffered along with complete heretics.

    Cardinal Gibbons and the rest of the American heirarchy responded that no one among them taught these propositions that were condemned:

    1.undue insistence on interior initiative in the spiritual life, as leading to disobedience
    2.attacks on religious vows, and disparagement of the value of religious orders in the modern world
    3.minimizing Catholic doctrine
    4.minimizing the importance of spiritual direction

    They were really scratching their heads on this one and had a hard time figuring out why the Pope was concerned with a non-problem in this country.

    This tempest in a papal tea pot had more to do with the French Church. A biography of Father Isaac Hecker, founder of the Paulists and now a Servant of God, was mistranslated into French and portrayed Father Hecker as some sort of flaming radical which he was not. This book became popular among liberal Catholics in France. As usual the relationship
    between the French Church and the Vatican was turbulent at this time. Pope Leo XIII’s concern about “Americanism” could have better been labeled a concern about “Frenchism”. Purportedly Leo XIII was reluctant to attack the Church in America, which he had often praised, and made his rebuke of “Americanism” as soft as possible.

    “We having thought it fitting, beloved son, in view of your high office, that this letter should be addressed specially to you. It will also be our care to see that copies are sent to the bishops of the United States, testifying again that love by which we embrace your whole country, a country which in past times has done so much for the cause of religion, and which will by the Divine assistance continue to do still greater things. To you, and to all the faithful of America, we grant most lovingly, as a pledge of Divine assistance, our apostolic benediction.”

    The statements of loyalty from the American heirarchy were sufficient for the Pope and “Americanism” vanished from history as quickly as it appeared.

  4. “The dropping of the bomb on Hiroshima and Nagasaki is not a close moral case.”

    Agreed. It was clearly the best of the bad options Truman confronted.

    “It has been condemned by every pope since it happened and ever major Catholic theologian”

    Incorrect on both counts.

    “but a singular event that resulted in the moral chaos which gave rise to the Sexual Revolution and the Culture of Death.”

    One of the sillier things that Bishop Sheen said, for which there is bupkis evidence. By the way Becky, did you know that both Bishop Sheen and the Popes supported nuclear deterrence during the Cold War? Nuclear deterrence only worked because of the certainty that if we were attacked by the Soviet Union or China with nuclear weapons, we would unleash nuclear weapons on their cities that would make the atom bombs used on Hiroshima and Nagasaki look like firecrackers. This is a much more complicated area than you conceive of, and deserves far more thought than your cut and paste diatribe that you have used several times on this blog.

  5. Thank you for posting this article. It contains thoughts I’ve had for quite some time. I am continually amazed how so-called orthodox Catholics periodically leave logic and reason behind, and frequently the truth, then tell me my contrary view is not Catholic. It’s almost as though they are trying to maintain their credibility/popularity with the left. Mr. Mockeridge lists several of the usual suspects, but sadly, there are quite a few more.

  6. Chances are, 99.99% of the time those questioning the merits and positions of Fr. Barron had best re-calibrate themselves.

  7. Fr.Barron, in spite of his perceived conservative orthodoxy, is a liberal. He has publically taught Adam and Eve aren’t historical figures. He’s also against the death penalty. So, his stand on the Bomb shouldn’t come as a surprise to anyone who has taken the time to understand what he really believes.

  8. “Chances are, 99.99% of the time those questioning the merits and positions of Fr. Barron had best re-calibrate themselves.”

    I remember visiting a center of Opus Dei once. They were debating the morality of the bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Most felt it immoral but there were two who offered very cogent arguments on why they were. These individuals weren’t equated with those rejecting the sexual teaching of the Church. The group held that the Church had not definitively judged the bombings and that there was legitimate freedom in disagreeing.

    Perhaps Opus Dei is now a heretical sect. Or perhaps there is room to licitly disagree.

  9. Wow, this article is a mish-mash. Ad hominem attacks against Fr. Barron (with whom I disagree about much, including my strong area of interest, capital punishment). Misapplication of the principle of double effect, the first requirement of which is that the act to be done must be good in itself or at least morally indifferent– dropping atomic bombs on civilians is not “good” or “morally indifferent” so double effect does not even apply. And throwing up counterfactual historical theories such as the laughable army of women, old men, and children that would supposedly have faced American troops. The Japanese could not even clothe these “troops” much less train or arm them. In any event, if they would have engaged our military, their deaths would not be morally attributable to our actions, but to their own and their government’s.

    This is yet another weak attempt to evade the clear teaching of Veritatis Splendor and Pope Saint John Paul II’s condemnation of the primary error in moral reasoning in our time, that of consequentialism, the idea that avoiding some perceived evil or attaining some great good justifies the direct commission of an immoral act.

    Hiroshima and Nagasaki were not populated by the laughable militia we’ve now seen several references to… they were civilian populations with minimal military significance. Their destruction was not intended to advance a military goal, but simply to terrorize the Japanese government into surrender by the threat of further mass killing of civilians.

    That this direct, deliberate killing of tens of thousands of civilians, including women, children, the elderly, might have averted the need for an invasion of Japan, does not justify it according to traditional Catholic moral principles.

    I have seen no argument yet that does not run afoul of either Veritatis Splendor’s condemnation of consequentialism, or of the clear magisterial condemnation of the use of nuclear weapons:

    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; cf. Gaudium et Spes 80)

  10. What a terrible analysis. I gather it makes you feel good to think that the American experiment has been a Catholic project since the beginning.
    The modern method [of argumentation] is to assume without discussion that [your opponent] is wrong and then distract his attention from this (the only real issue) by busily explaining how he became so silly. In the course of the last fifteen years I have found this vice so common that I have had to invent a name for it. I call it Bulverism. Some day I am going to write the biography of its imaginary inventor, Ezekiel Bulver, whose destiny was determined at the age of five when he heard his mother say to his father — who had been maintaining that two sides of a triangle were together greater than the third — ‘Oh you say that because you are a man.’ ‘At that moment’, E. Bulver assures us, ‘there flashed across my opening mind the great truth that refutation is no necessary part of argument. Assume that your opponent is wrong, and then explain his error, and the world will be at your feet. Attempt to prove that he is wrong or (worse still) try to find out whether he is wrong or right, and the national dynamism of our age will thrust you to the wall.’ That is how Bulver became one of the makers of the Twentieth [and Twenty-First] Century.

    –C. S. Lewis, “Bulverism,” in God in the Dock, p. 273

  11. Fr. Jone’s conclusion, by the way, is not a vindication of the bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. It is theoretically possible that the use of the bombs on a purely military target, for instance, an island like Iwo Jima which had been totally occupied by enemy troops, would be justified.

    Hiroshima and Nagasaki were not significant military targets, but even if they had been, the presence of tens of thousands of civilians would violate Fr. Jone’s restriction of use of these weapons to military targets only.

    At any rate, the bombings were not a military necessity, but a perceived political one. Don’t take my word for it, if you’re interested in the views of actual military experts (not merely bloggers), check out what George Marshall, Eisenhower, MacArthur, William Leahy, Chester Nimitz, and Curtis LeMay said about the bombings, here: http://www.garalperovitz.com/2011/08/on-the-sixty-sixth-anniversary-of-the-bombing-of-hiroshima/

    No group of suspicious Catholic libruls there. But alas, even when military experts who were there and had far more intimate knowledge than any one in a combox could possibly have, it will not convince those who do not wish to be convinced, since maybe they’d have to admit that Truman made a poor choice.

  12. Never thought to much of Father Barron since he said he didn’t know if hell really existed. I don’t guess he’s read the Bible.

  13. , doesn’t sound like the Fr. Barron others are seeing. Comments like that are much the problem here. You mistake the “existence” of a place with the knowledge that it’s “populated”. The church has always said “yes” and “don’t know”.

  14. Tom: On capital punishment, the death penalty, ordained and consecrated men and women are to serve God through the Catholic Church. Ordained priests, all priests are above the secular world of the state. Read John Henry Cardinal Newman on capital punishment and the duty and power of the state. It is among the most beautiful language, I have ever read. This is for Father Barron too. Being completely computer ignorant, I cannot supply a link.
    On the atomic bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. First, I was alive at the time, being 73 years old now, People were exhausted, Rosie the Riveter, Uncle Sam, there was no more left in the American people fighting the war on two fronts. There was no more left. (Lisa Mitner who had discovered nuclear fission refused to help build the bomb, her nephew did, Oppenhiemer was revealed to be a double agent for the USSR, Ethel and Julius Rosenberg were gassed for treason and bloodguilt during war.) There was no more left. No one really knew much about the BOMB. The scientists themselves believed that the nuclear fission started would consume the atmosphere and all the earth with its inhabitants would perish. The Enola Gay was to drop the bomb on Tokyo, but Tokyo was too far away. The twin cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki were war production. After the war, many of the victims of Hiroshima and Nagasaki toured the globe with their skin hanging off as though it was melted, as it was, and on TV, pretty much accused the USA of being an aggressor and a monster.
    The bomb brought the Japanese war back to Japan. No apologies necessary. If Japan had won the war and global dominance, Fr. Barron would probably not even be here. What would Hitler and Hirohito face off bring?
    Let me tell you about how Czar Nicholas II waged war. 9 to 15 soldiers were sent out onto the battlefield with one rifle. When the first soldier fell, the second soldier picked up the rifle, down the line. That is how war was fought without proper armaments. I have no doubt that the Japanese, who believed that their emperor was a god, would have fought to the death. The threat was real. The enemy was not to be trusted. If the bomb saved one American soldier it was moral and licit. Would that he be John Basilone of Raritan, N.J.

  15. Father Barron did not say that hell is empty of souls. Father Barron said that we, as people, cannot know if a person has gone to hell, which is true, but let me add that souls in hell are never remembered, so, if anyone is wondering if a certain person is in hell, he probably is not, if he is in your memory. The torments of hell are unimaginable. To experience hell, even through another person’s experience of hell is unsustainable. The children at Fatima would have died upon seeing hell but for the Blessed Virgin Mary’s hand. The children saw the souls of the damned falling like snow into hell and asked for First Saturday Penitence. Father Barron is correct when he says that the fires of hell are the love and mercy of God as rejected by the sinner, as death fixes our relationship with God as unchangeable. Heaven is the Beatific Vision forever and forever and forever.

  16. Every time the issue of the atomic bombs (and other issues like it) come up within the Catholic Media Complex, the term “consequentialism” gets passed around like a joint in a hippie commune.

    With regard to Gaudium et Spes, it doesn’t say anything like “even though the line between combatant and non-combatant has been erased”. And that is an essential element in any moral analysis of the bombings.

    Mr. Check’s analysis is some of the same tripe his predecessor at Catholic Answers, Karl Keating, put out a decade ago. In the words of Pete Townsend, “Meet the new boss, same as the old boss.”

    Apparently, Chris Check has no problems with the death penalty, seeing as how he executes a whole slew of straw men.

    Anyone who understands the nature of the enemies we faced in WWII (Japan even more so than Germany) knows why the Allies were insistent on the unconditional surrender. It prevented WWIII, which would have occurred within about a decade after WWII if not sooner.

    I find Mr. Check’s article all the more painful because he was an artillery officer in the Marine Corps. And he has to know much of what he says is not true.

    Father of Seven, I agree with you. The list of bad actors is much longer than the list I provided. I didn’t want to get too far afield in my article. To give a thorough treatment of the problem would require a book.

  17. This about the battle of Okinawa. While this is from Wikipedia and thus subject to error, one can see that there was already a fairly robust conscription of civilians including “middle school seniors.” The number conscripted represents about 10% of the estimated civilian population of Okinawa at the time. Ultimately almost 100,000 civilians died in the invasion.

    “The Japanese land campaign (mainly defensive) was conducted by the 67,000-strong (77,000 according to some sources) regular 32nd Army and some 9,000 Imperial Japanese Navy (IJN) troops at Oroku naval base (only a few hundred of whom had been trained and equipped for ground combat), supported by 39,000 drafted local Ryukyuan people (including 24,000 hastily drafted rear militia called Boeitai and 15,000 non-uniformed laborers). In addition, 1,500 middle school senior boys organized into front-line-service ‘Iron and Blood Volunteer Units…'”

    More on the Boeitai:

    “The Boeitai was a Japanese “home guard” force of World War II. It was established by the War Ministry in June 1944 in response to the worsening war situation facing Japan, and initially comprised all reservists in the 20-40 age group including those who would not normally be liable for military service under the Japanese conscription system. The Imperial Japanese Army’s area armies had responsibility for raising and administering Boeitai units, and there was considerable variation in how these formations were structured and used. Boeitai units were established in the Japanese home islands, Okinawa, Korea and Formosa. Unlike regular Japanese Army soldiers, Boeitai personnel were not indoctrinated to fight to the death or consider themselves to be imperial subjects.

    “Around 20,000 local Boeitai conscripts were involved in the Battle of Okinawa during 1945, with most initially serving as labourers or in support roles but some augmenting frontline Army units. Most of the Okinawan Boeitai were teenagers or aged in their 30s and 40s. As the fighting continued, many of the support personnel were assigned to combat duties despite not being provided with any training for this role or effective weapons; some Boeitai personnel were ordered to conduct suicide missions in which they attempted to blow up tanks with satchel charges. In addition, several Okinawan Boeitai groups fought as partisans armed mainly with spears and grenades.”

    For those who were planning the invasion of Japan and considering the use of the bomb, the thought of a militarized Japanese population was a realistic expectation.

  18. Tom:

    The mass conscription that turned the entire country of Japan into a military base was the very military objective (which was the word actually used) described by Fr. Jone. And there is nothing “laughable” about the massive bloodbath, made more bloody by the chaotic civilian involvement, that would have resulted from an invasion of mainland Japan.

  19. Truman was a democrat. Enough said.
    “. . . At any rate, the bombings were not a military necessity . . .” Not sure about that.
    My opinion, to the extent that (fallen, fallible) civilian and military authorities were convinced that the bombs would quickly induce surrender, there would be both military necessity and purpose.
    Hiroshima, I believe, was the location of an army corps HQ. Hit the snake in the head. However, my target preferences would have been first Imperial Army HQ and then (if it was not a heap of radioactive ashes) Hirohito’s palace. That’d show millions of murderous fanatics that the Emperor is not god.
    Herein I’m channeling Curtis Lemay. If the shia mullahs both want the end of the world and the bomb, I suggest someone (Israel maybe ) detonate a demo model over the next mass meeting. Now, Obama and the rest of the western losers are acting like Chamberlain and Quisling on steroids.

  20. Why tamper with the title? To simply cast aspersions?
    Location identified.
    Religion identified.
    As to assent and dissent, there are reflections of morals guided by the faith taught carefully by our Lord, thanks be to God.

  21. jpk,

    Ed Feser is a great philosopher. So he knows that killing the innocent, no matter what the reason, is wrong. He, contra many Catholics of disordered thinking, also defends the death penalty:


    I juxtapose these issues because he knows of double effect, he knows one can use lethal means to stop an aggressor and he would know to engage the arguments posted above rather than provide a bland comment.

  22. Philip,

    IProf. Feser does reference the PDE in the combo box thread of the post I referenced above. He writes (August 11, 2010 at 10:30 AM) in response to another commentor:


    Yes, naturally (as a natural law theorist) I subscribe to PDE. But PDE doesn’t justify Nagasaki. It would do so only if the bombers were not trying to kill people who they knew to be innocent, but were instead trying to destroy munitions factories or some such thing, and the civilian deaths were a foreseen but unintended byproduct. But that is not what they were doing. They were, again, trying to kill the civilians.

    You might respond “But they were doing so only for the sake of ending the war sooner.” True, but irrelevant, and to think it is relevant evinces a misunderstanding of PDE. PDE doesn’t say “As long as your ultimate goal is OK, you can justify whatever means you need in order to achieve it.” The act of intentionally bombing thousands of innocent people is itself intrinsically immoral, and the reason you are doing it doesn’t change that. The act of intentionally bombing a city for the sake of destroying munitions factories is (according to PDE) a different act, even if you know civilians will die as a result, because killing the civilians is not part of the intention behind the action.

    Feser also agrees in another thread how bad the Japanese were, and how it is in consequence extremely difficult to stick to moral principles in the face of grave evil. The link to that thread is here: http://edwardfeser.blogspot.com/2011/01/unconditional-surrender.html, and here is a relevant quote but the whole article and comment discussion is worth the read:

    Third, for that reason it is probably true that the atomic bombings saved many lives, both Allied and Japanese, that would have been lost in an invasion. It is also probably true that it saved the lives of POWs like Zamperini. Given Japan’s wicked “kill-all” policy of massacring POWs before they could be liberated – which had been carried out already many times in other parts of Japan’s empire – it is likely that only the abrupt end to the war the shock of the bombings made possible could have prevented the implementation of that policy in the home islands. Critics of the bombings should not pretend otherwise: If they hold (as they should) that we should never do what is intrinsically evil, regardless of the consequences, then they should admit that Hiroshima and Nagasaki force them to put their money where their mouths are, if any real-world example does.

    I agree that Prof. Feser is a great philosopher and a Catholic gentleman. That is why I’m thankful that he is out there providing sound reasoning consonant with the Catholic faith on such weighty issues. I certainly need all the help I can get.

  23. As I said above, the term “consequentialism” gets passed around the Catholic Media Complex like a joint in a hippie commune. And Feser takes a nice long toke. Nowhere does he address the the issue of mass conscription that erased the line between combatant and non-combatant. Neither does Jimmy Akin. To do so would lay bare just how ridiculous their argument are.

  24. Please give a principled response to Feser below:

    What matters is that any consequentialist must allow that it is at least in principle legitimate intentionally to kill the innocent for the sake of a “greater good.” And from the point of view of us reactionary, bigoted, unprogressive natural law theorists and Catholics, that is enough to make consequentialism a depraved doctrine. For it is never, never permissible to do what is intrinsically evil that good may come – not even if you’d feel much happier if you did it, not even if you’ve got some deeply ingrained tendency to want to do it, not even if it will shorten a war and save thousands of lives. Never.

  25. “at least in principle legitimate intentionally to kill the innocent for the sake of a “greater good.””

    Actually the Church has allowed the killing of the innocent in War to serve a “greater good”. The Crusades would have been impossible if the innocent had an all embracing exemption from harm that critics of Mr. Truman think they should possess. What is being argued here, among other issues, are questions of intentionality, foreseeability and just how much of a target needs to have military applications before it is licit to bomb the target. All this of course is being debated in an atmosphere of the neo-Pacifism embraced by the Church since World War II, a new stance for the Church, probably the product of the very simple fact that contemporary popes no longer wage wars, unlike the vast majority of their predecessors. However, even with this neo-Pacifism the popes of the Cold War did endorse nuclear deterrence that rested on obliterating entire civilian populations in retaliation for a nuclear attack. I think this poses a problem for the Hiroshima critics that I have never seen them address.

  26. The principled response is that I agree. There is no reason to commit evil so that good may come of it. However, you continue to miss the point.

    But yet we are allowed to go to war. The reason is (as with the death penalty) is that the state can use lethal force to defend itself and others. This has been consistent Church teaching. The discussion is, if the Japanese had de facto conscripted the majority of their population, then in fact the Hiroshima and Nagasaki bombs were not bombings directly aimed at civilians but at regular and irregular (conscripted) military.

    Yes, there would still be civilians in those cities, but the Church has always accepted that there may be casualties among civilians if the intentions was to target the army (or militarily related targets) and not civilians, there was proportionate reason to do so and that the act did not proceed through the killing of civilians (the argument from PDE.) Thus, for example, the Church allowed besieging cities, knowing that there would be harm and death among civilians, in order to defeat an aggressor army.

    Here, now I will help you. The argument will now turn on two points. That the civilians of Hiroshima and Nagasaki had in fact been conscripted (at least in principle) and that their numbers were proportionate reason to use the bomb given the effects of the bomb that could be foreseen (the deaths of civilians.)

  27. First: Japan is guilty for the deaths of all the innocent people who died at Hiroshima and Nagasaki and in the war Japan started.
    Second: Reparations being demanded and paid to the people interned in Arizona by the government, interned because they were Japanese is nonsense. These people were in protective custody. The kids across the street were “the germans”. In a Polish neighborhood, a hail of stones greeted them every time they came around. They were “the germans.” Mussolini and Mrs. Mussolini were dragged through the streets by their feet, tied upside down in the public square and beaten with sticks.

  28. Consequentialism is a term used by Pope Saint JPII to describe just the type of moral reasoning occurring in these discussions.

    I suppose the late Pope might be viewed as a hippie passing a joint around, but I prefer to see his teaching in VS a mere reiteration of the Church’s timeless moral reasoning, which was in effect even during the Crusades, during which any direct killing of innocents would never have been viewed as morally justified. The Crusades were carried out by lay armies, not by moral philosophers. Abuses happened, and they were just that: abuses, not examples of moral behavior.

  29. “The Crusades were carried out by lay armies, not by moral philosophers. Abuses happened, and they were just that: abuses, not examples of moral behavior.”

    If there was any condemnation by the Church at the time of the massacre of almost all the Muslim and Jewish population of Jerusalem after its fall to the First Crusade, I am unaware of it. The attitude of the Church towards War today has not always been the attitude of the Church towards War.

    Citations by authority are weak arguments Tom, as I am sure you would agree since you were certainly unconvinced by John Paul II’s statements against the death penalty.

  30. Consequentialism is a term used by Pope Saint JPII to describe just the type of moral reasoning occurring in these discussions.

    Quote and source, please, if not an actual link to the entire context.
    You have shown a consistent pattern of interpreting statements in ways that are not supported by their actual content, and ignoring that which cannot be interpreted away.

  31. Now, Veritatis Splendor did have a condemnation of consequentialism.
    Problem being, it’s got nothing to do with the form of an argument, it’s a matter of foundation claim.
    The condemnation is of those who go by that name who maintain that it is never possible to formulate an absolute prohibition of particular kinds of behaviour which would be in conflict, in every circumstance and in every culture, with those values.
    In other words, denial of inherently wrong actions being possible.
    About the only way this could reasonably get dragged into this discussion would be via an unexamined assumption that an action is inherently immoral coupled with a projection on to the other side that they agree and are arguing that an inherently immoral action is OK in this case.
    For example, someone who believed that cutting a living human is inherently wrong would have to come up with some sort of a system that worked that way to deal with surgery, even the very ancient sorts.

  32. The Judicial system. Justice is predicated on intent. Surgery to save a life; and any law may be broken to save human life as in the bombing of Nagasaki and Hiroshima, as self defense against an aggressor, or the Court ordering a blood transfusion for Jehovah Witnesses, not to intervene in their religion but to save a life, even an unborn child who becomes an aggressor against his own mother may be aborted justly. This last case scenario has never happened. The child would be removing himself from life-support, but it is the case of self-preservation and self -defense inscribed in our natures and in the Preamble.
    The intent to take a life is homicide and a sin and crime. The informed consent to commit homicide (attempted murder) and the intent to commit a grave mortal sin in informed consent, self-excommunicates a person from the church and makes an outlaw of a citizen, a persona non grata, and exile.
    This informed consent is the free will exercise of the will and a proof that man has a soul, a sovereign soul, from the very first moment of his existence, who directs his life and growth.
    America dropped warning leaflets on Hiroshima and Nagasaki warning the inhabitants of the bomb and instructing them to leave for two weeks prior to the bombing. America did not intend to kill any inhabitants. America intended to disable the cities and scare a surrender out the Emperor god. The Emperor god knew that the bomb was coming, yet Hirohito did nothing to save his people. Hirohito’s “subjects and loyal servants to the imperial state” perished. Are “subjects” and “loyal servants to the imperial state” waging a war of aggression innocent? Ought these” subjects and loyal servants to the imperial state” supposed to be in surrendered non-combatant state of being?

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