As the horrific repercussions from last night’s terrorist attack continue to unfold in Nice at this hour, we find ourselves at great loss. How do we, as people of faith, respond to such relentless evil? How do we engage an enemy whose warped ideology demands the total destruction of our way of life, and the wanton, random death of thousands of innocents world-wide?
Any remaining illusions that we, ourselves, are safe anywhere – that we can, somehow, escape the carnage unscathed – have, of course, long since been shattered. Each new attack only serves to drive us further into despair, and deeper into isolation.
Sure, we can and should send out our heart-felt prayers. We can drape our social media avatars in solidarity. But evil only mocks such innocence; it laughs at our good will.
We are engaged in a war, one that has been declared against us long before 9/11 – whether we want to acknowledge that fact or not. We face an enemy that may hide its face but not its ugly motives, that talks with bravado but is nothing short of cowardly.
France seems to have taken the brunt of the most recent attacks, an onslaught that has also hit us hard here in the US and scores of other places around the world.
And France is, again, aggressively responding with military threats and actions.
So righteous anger has risen up. Fire is being fought with fire.
Are theses actions legitimate – that is, moral – for people of faith?
The obvious answer is yes. The preservation of innocent human life must take precedence.
The Catechism of the Catholic Church can help instruct us. And, while we must resist the urge to take things out of context in order to advance a particular agenda or a political point of view, the Church’s teachings are, I believe, clear when the threat to innocent human life is immediate, substantial, real, and on-going:
2265: Legitimate defense can be not only a right but a grave duty for one who is responsible for the lives of others. The defense of the common good requires that an unjust aggressor be rendered unable to cause harm. For this reason, those who legitimately hold authority also have the right to use arms to repel aggressors against the civil community entrusted to their responsibility [emphasis added].
2266: The efforts of the state to curb the spread of behavior harmful to people’s rights and to the basic rules of civil society correspond to the requirement of safeguarding the common good. Legitimate public authority has the right and duty to inflict punishment proportionate to the gravity of the offense.
So pray, yes. Most definitely pray.
But we can and should urge those who legitimately hold authority over us to use all arms necessary to quickly defeat this global and growing threat.
The stakes have never been higher or more real.
Image Credit: Wikimedia Commons, Nice, France, Public Domain
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