The Churchs attitude towards war is of interest for a variety of reasons, which range from international relations to subjective dimensions and issues of conscience. The category of just war continues to be debated in a way that is characterized by the tension between the evangelical appeal of the rejection of violence and the need to govern a society in which order can be imposed with weapons. This text traces the development of Roman Catholic views of war over the 20th century, from Benedict XVs denunciation of World War I as useless slaughter to John Paul IIs condemnation of justifying any armed violence in the name of God. The evolution of these views has been fraught with problems: the constant invocation of peace increasingly stressed as weapons destructive power has grown has been accompanied by the affirmation of the moral legitimacy of combat (at least the defensive kind). With a thorough analysis, the author addresses several key aspects: pacifism, conscientious objection, discussions of colonial warfare and wars of liberation, and the condemnation of holy wars.
Daniele Menozzi teaches Contemporary History at the Scuola Normale Superiore of Pisa.