War, Peace, and Prudential Judgments

War, Peace, and Prudential Judgments

A priest I know gave this as part of his homily on Sunday. I think it’s a good summary of how Catholics should consider whether to support an invasion of Iraq or not. It doesn’t make a judgment one way or another, but gives clear advice on how to think about it. It also helps us avoid the misconceptions regarding just-war principles as well some things we’ve been hearing some clergy saying.

    When we speak of “moral teaching,” we are talking about good and bad behavior. Catholic moral teaching answers the question, “Is this action good or evil?” There is an important term in Catholic moral teaching. The term is “prudential judgment.” A “prudential judgment” is the application of a Christian principle to concrete circumstances. For example, it is a Christian principle that we should drive safely and that usually means that we should stay within the speed limit. However, in bad weather, to “drive safely” means to slow down. By how much? That is a prudential judgment.

    Christians apply Gospel principles, as taught by the Church, to the circumstances of life using the virtue of prudence. The key is to correctly distinguish between a Christian principle that binds in conscience and a prudential judgment. This requires an attentiveness to the Church’s teaching, but also wise applications. Sometimes the correct choice is easy to determine. The Christian principle prohibiting the direct killing of an unborn baby makes direct abortion always and everywhere wrong. Other times, the morally correct prudential judgments are extremely difficult to determine.

Click the “More…” link for the rest of the homily.

Written by
Domenico Bettinelli