Since leaving school I’ve tried to keep abreast of my studies and as such read a variety of blogs and publications doing so.

Recently this has resulted in coming across a story about how the U.S. Air Force has completely blurred the distinction between church and state through its use of the Bible for justifying use of nuclear weaponry in preparing airmen for possible deployment of nuclear weapons should they receive the order to do so.

Were this to be done in any other area of their armed services it would likely have been squashed. But with studies that once saw the likelihood of a near 60% “failure” in airmen following through on the order a few decades ago, they’ve turned to a higher power for a helping hand as cuts loom and an appetite for a smaller nuclear stockpile grows.

Interestingly it’s not as strange an idea as you’d think.

Granted the preaching is a problem, and as one senior Air Force Space and Missile officer put it, ” presumes ALL missile officers are religious and specifically in need of CHRISTIAN justification for their service.”

But this obvious quandary aside, the history of religious justification for the use of violence easily dates back to the Fourth Century.

Augustine of Hippo and Thomas Aquinas blazed the way as they wrestled with ideas of Justified War and provided the means to absolution of Christendom’s faithful as they marched against the infidels abroad, but Stanislaw of Skarbimierz’s sermon justifying war over eleven hundred years later, and specifically the Kingdom of Poland’s war with the Teutonic Knights, deserves recognition as one of the first clear cut examples of official Church approval being given for a war.

Eventually from these theological examinations came the basis for the International “Law” in place today.

There have of course been some modifications, and it’s continually under debate, always tested by the activities of member and non-member states alike, but even as it has shifted into the secular purview, papal approval is still sought, even if not explicitly so.

And the Vatican has dutifully risen to this expectation.

However with the most recent Catechism of the Catholic Church (1992), paragraph 2309 lists the four conditions for “legitimate defense by military force,” and a marked change in a centuries long position:

1. Damaged inflicted by the aggressor on nation or community of nations must be lasting, grave, and certain;
2. All other means of putting an end to the aggression must be shown to be impractical or ineffective;
3. There must be serious prospects for success;
4. And finally, the use of arms must not produce evils and disorders graver than that being eliminated.

Of specific interest is a stipulation they add onto the final point requiring that the magnitude of force being employed be weighed against its corresponding magnitude of imprecision.

That is to say, the bigger the weapon the more likely there is to be unintended causalities.

An import distinction when you consider their early days of providing excuses for their holy warriors to rampage across their enemies’ lands, but a necessary one now that we have the ability to level an entire city.

It’s a sad irony that as the Church calls for discretion, the Air Force is using their teachings to justify launching nuclear missiles.