Armed Defense Might Be a Duty in Certain Cases, Cardinal Ratzinger Says

«Enemy Must Be Respected as Man,» He Clarifies

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ROME, NOV. 14, 2001 ( Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger said that an individual or government may have a right to armed defense in case of aggression, but emphasized that such recourse must be taken while respecting fundamental rights.

The prefect of the Vatican Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith gave an example: «The father of a family who sees his own attacked has the duty to do everything possible to defend the family, the lives of persons entrusted to him, including, if need be, with proportional violence.»

During an interview Tuesday with Vatican Radio, the cardinal gave another historical example: «that of Poland, which defended itself against Hitler.»

«According to the Christian tradition, one cannot exclude that, in a world marked by sin, there might be an evil aggression that threatens to destroy not only values and people, but also man´s image as such. In this case, to defend oneself in order to defend the other could be a duty,» the cardinal said.

There are precise conditions for such armed defense, he added. Above all, it must actually be «the only possibility to defend human lives, to defend human values,» Cardinal Ratzinger clarified.

Careful attention must be given so that the «means used for this defense, always respect the law. In such a war, the enemy must be respected as man, as well as his fundamental rights,» the cardinal emphasized.

Lastly, he said, «everything must be really pondered in conscience, also considering all alternatives.»

In light of the experience of recent years, Cardinal Ratzinger maintains that «Christian tradition on this point» must be updated, also keeping in mind «the new possibilities of destruction, of new dangers.»

For example, the right to defense might not apply to use of an atomic weapon.

Addressing the question of fundamentalism, the cardinal said that it stems from «an abuse of the name of God.»

In this way, religion is «politicized and subjected to power, and becomes a factor of power,» he added.

On the contrary, the face of Christ is «the face of a God who suffers for us and does not use his omnipotence to regulate with a powerful strike the realities of the world, but rather comes to meet us in our heart with a love that allows itself to be killed for us. Here we have the vision of a God who excludes every type of violence.»

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