Jesuit comments on Syria

Image: Fr RyscavageRev. Richard Ryscavage, S.J., a Jesuit priest who is director of Fairfield University's Center for Faith and Public Life and professor of sociology, shares his perspectives on the potential U.S. response to Syria and 'Just War:'

"When emeritus Pope Benedict 16th addressed the United Nations General Assembly, he endorsed the relatively recent concept of the Responsibility to Protect (R2P) - the concept developed in the last part of the 20th century after reflecting on the horrors of the Holocaust and the terrible genocides in Rwanda and former Yugoslavia. In situations of failed states unable to protect its own people or in situations where the government launches large scale attacks on some of its own people, especially civilian non-combatants, innocent women and children, the nations of the world have a moral responsibility to intervene in order to protect the innocent.

This idea R2P has not been recognized by the UN Security Council under international law. The Catholic Church views it as natural extension of the principle of 'solidarity,' the teaching that we are all part of the same human family both genetically and religiously under God. Therefore we all share equally the responsibility and duty to protect each other in our globalized world.

That said, the strategy of the Obama administration and the European members of the Security Council is not at all clear. Is a military strike intended to protect people from another chemical attack? Or is it more symbolic in order to show that 'we did something?' The Church would argue from its Just War perspective that any military response must not be disproportionate to the original attack. Will the military response avoid civilian casualties? Have all the diplomatic channels been exhausted? From the perspective of CST [Catholic Social Teaching], we must ask all these questions before endorsing an attack on a sovereign state."

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Media Contact: Meg McCaffrey, (203) 254-4000, ext. 2726,

Posted on September 3, 2013

Vol. 46, No. 35

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