Just War: A Theological Cop Out?


Over on the Sojourner’s blog they have posted an interview with one Father George Zabelka who was a Roman Catholic chaplain stationed with the Army Air Force on Tinian near the end of the war in the Pacific. Over the years he has come to seriously reconsider his position at that time, his complicity in the atomic bomb attacks on Japan as well as his own faith. Here are just some of the things he shared in the interview::

The whole structure of the secular, religious, and military society told me clearly that it was all right to “let the Japs have it.” God was on the side of my country. The Japanese were the enemy, and I was absolutely certain of my country’s and Church’s teaching about enemies; no erudite theological text was necessary to tell me. The day-in-day-out operation of the state and the Church between 1940 and 1945 spoke more clearly about Christian attitudes toward enemies and war than St. Augustine or St. Thomas Aquinas ever could….”


“…. seventeen hundred years of Christian terror and slaughter should arrive at August 9, 1945, when Catholics dropped the A-bomb on top of the largest and first Catholic city in Japan. One would have thought that I, as a Catholic priest, would have spoken out against the atomic bombing of nuns. (Three orders of Catholic sisters were destroyed in Nagasaki that day.) One would have thought that I would have suggested that as a minimal standard of Catholic morality, Catholics shouldn’t bomb Catholic children. I didn’t.”

“…as I see it, until the various churches within Christianity repent and begin to proclaim by word and deed what Jesus proclaimed in relation to violence and enemies, there is no hope for anything other than ever-escalating violence and destruction.”


Father Zabelka has much more to say on this subject, and unlike most of us, he has the first hand experience to back up his position. I highly recommend reading this moving interview. You can find it here :


  1. #1 by Mr. Holland on February 1, 2010 - 11:10 pm

    Chris, I have to say that agree with just about all that you have said. I think now (as opposed to when I posted this) that the idea of ‘just war’ applies to nations and not individuals. Our soldiers have a duty to perform (thank God for them that decide to take up this duty) and it is up to our leaders to determine the justice of any action they take, be it war or peace. I don’t believe that peace (or avoiding military action at all costs) is always the just response.

    Thank you for serving our country. My son is the Corps as we speak, serving on Okinawa. Ooh-rah!

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