Wednesday, November 07, 2007

A Million Dead Iraqis?

Last I checked, it was probably only 650,000 or so; here is a rather under-reported study claiming the number is somewhat higher, around 1,200,000, or most likely between 733,158 and 1,446,063. One can stroll through some relevant data here and here; the older Lancet study is here. If the more recent report is accurate, the dead would exceed those from the Rwandan genocide.

At some point we ought to be concerned--perhaps even a little more concerned than it seems we already are.

Is there a number at which one's potentiality for receiving Communion would be affected?


At 10:13 AM, Blogger Taylor W Burton Edwards said...

From classic catholic practice, the answer would be, yes, on several fronts.

That a war was declared to be justifiable (and that would be the more accurate translation of the idea, not simply "just") did not mean that those who were participating in it were able to receive communion. Indeed, they were technically excommunicate until they confessed their sins and were assigned penance for having engaged in the violent acts of the war.

The way the discipline around communion and the justifiable war would have been administered in some instances COULD mean (and apparently DID mean) that persons who participated in a war that was NOT declared justifiable could be PERMANENTLY excommunicated, or at least subject to a substantial time of penance before one could be readmitted.

That is why it was so important for kings and other rulers to get some assurance from the church that the wars they were about to engage were justifiable, up front. They did not want their people to be engaged in actions on their behalf that could end up landing them in hell, or even a very long time in purgatory. Given church-state relationships, that would have been VERY bad PR for the state!

The problem with the Iraq situation is that this war didn't meet the criteria for a justifiable war, and indeed violated a principle that was adamant in those criteria-- namely, that pre-emption can NEVER be justifiable. Both Thomas Aquinas and Hugo Grotius made it clear that the fear that someone MIGHT attack is always insufficient as a basis for war. I believe it was Thomas who said that anything close to pre-emption cannot be considered unless you've got something like the opposing army AT your border, armed and clearly intending to attack YOU or another YOU have committed to defend.

Of course, what we know now, if we didn't know it before, is that decisions about the justifiability of war now are made on the basis of "national interest" or "national security" primarily, and NOT on the criteria the church and then International Law (as established by Grotius) provided. The question is, given that fact, how does the church hold its own accountable for the actions they take either in supporting or in participating in war.

Peace in Christ,

Taylor Burton-Edwards

At 2:06 PM, Blogger The Anglican Scotist said...

Thank you very much for that information.

I wish its gravity were better known; I shall do what I can here, as the just war arguments need to be brought back into common currency. But I fear it will be a paltry offering.

I am so ashamed.


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