It seems there has been something of a tempest in reaction to my two posts about Russia and Ukraine, which were admittedly hastily written, unclear and, as one person described it, ‘sloppy’. Mea culpa, and, again, my apologies, especially after all my own exhortations to clarity and precision. And, in particular, I apologize for posting a link to a site (RT), without due diligence and recognizing that it is funded by the Russian government. I should not have implied that it was an unbiased source, nor that it was a ‘view from the ground’, without acknowledging its bias.
I will not return directly to the topic at hand, which is a fraught and unfolding one, about which, regardless, I admittedly do not know enough to speak in any specific way. So allow me, in the spirit of Catholic Insight’s primary purpose, simply to clarify some terms, that I hope will in turn make my own thoughts (which I think have been misconstrued) more clear. Readers may apply these as they see fit.
A just war is always a defensive war. One of the five principles of such is that one is defending against an aggressor. The invasion of sovereign nations is in general a condemnable act.
Whatever the Russian president thinks of himself (and, for the record, I do not think he is a ‘new Vlad’ – the linked article was arguing precisely the opposite), his ambitions, whatever they may be, have precipitated a conflict with disastrous consequences.
Yet a just war must also in some way be ‘winnable’, and not lead to mutual annihilation (again, warned of by Our Lady). What winning means in this case is unclear. We may ‘Stand with Ukraine’, but how far might we be willing to go in this thermonuclear era?
As far as ‘God’s will’ goes, it is opaque in all of this. What we might say, from Catholic teaching, is that His will manifests itself from our perspective in various ways:
God directly wills the good and the true, life and salvation.
He also indirectly wills physical evil – hurricanes, floods, earthquakes, asteroids, sickness – for nothing escapes His providence. When these harm human beings, we may describe such as His ‘permissive will’, in allowing such calamities.
God in no way wills moral evil, even if He also permits such, for reasons that are obscure, in that mysterium iniquitatis of which Saint Paul speaks. What we do know is that the Almighty brings great good out of both physical and moral evil in ways we cannot fully yet see. At the very least, they should spur us to prayer and repentance.
Wars begin with an injustice stemming from the individual decisions of human beings, but then take on a life of their own, with the inertia of the machines of war. It becomes not unlike a hurricane, well-nigh unstoppable. We should all work to minimize the consequent evils, and pray that moral goodness – even basic sanity, in such short supply in our world – win out.
Amidst all the turmoil, and not to underestimate the suffering involved, we should keep in mind that the ultimate purpose of history and all the events therein, is the salvation of souls. There will be an end to history, when we will all, the living and the dead, be brought before God in what we call the eschaton, the Parousia, the apocalypse, presaged by a demonic ‘final unleashing of evil’ – both kinds, described above, in full measure. We know not when that will be, but we do know that evil does not have the final say. Christ has conquered death, by His own passion and resurrection. If we follow Him in His suffering, we will also share in His resurrection, in the beatitude of heaven.
Without this hope, nothing on this side of eternity makes much sense at all, nor could we endure. But God gives the grace and strength, if we pray, and trust in Him.
And I can only hope these few words clarify my own few words, and, perhaps, help the reader in some small way.