The tenth anniversary of the terrorist attacks on September 11, 2001 has reignited discussions of the morality of the war in Iraq. As the years have passed, some who initially supported the war have decided that they made a mistake in doing so. For many American Catholics who consider themselves faithful to the teaching of the Church, such such thoughts have often come as they confronted the fact that the papacy's response to the war in Iraq, under both Pope John Paul II and Benedict XVI, has been to oppose it. Others who have continued to support the war have tried to minimize the importance of this opposition by describing the decision to go to war as a "prudential judgment," left up to politicians.
The effect of this is to rob prudence, one of the four cardinal virtues, of any moral importance and to make it merely a practical matter. The popes' thoughts on the war in Iraq may be "interesting," but they're not "authoritative," like, say, their teaching on abortion or embryonic stem-cell research.
This is a fundamental misunderstanding of prudence, which is, at heart, the virtue by which we recognize what is good and what is evil in any practical matter. To learn more about the virtue of prudence and to understand why a "prudential judgment" is a moral, and not simply a practical, one, see Prudence: A Cardinal Virtue.
- What Are the Four Cardinal Virtues?
- What Are the Three Theological Virtues?
- What Is the Papacy's Response to the War in Iraq?
- The Just War Theory of the Catholic Church