"On Romans 13 and Government"
Obviously, Fr. Ernesto and I largely agree. I differ slightly with him on two points. On the first, I think it is possible and useful to think of the so-called "American Revolution" as a ("just") war for independence rather than as a revolution per se. Second, I do think it is possible, on the basis of Augustine's "just war" theory, to posit a theory of just revolution. From "the repository of all knowledge," Wikipedia, here are the criteria usually given for just war:
One large theoretical problem immediately pops out of the above: the matter of legitimate authority. Anyone seeking to justify a violent revolution on Christian grounds would immediately have to deal with this question. As to the rest of the criteria, it is also immediately clear that one could not, at least from a Christian perspective, justify the incitement of violent revolution in the United States at this time. As Fr. Ernesto rightly points out, revolution is a dangerous and unpredictable way of attempting to secure one's political aims.
- Just cause
- The reason for going to war needs to be just and cannot therefore be solely for recapturing things taken or punishing people who have done wrong; innocent life must be in imminent danger and intervention must be to protect life. A contemporary view of just cause was expressed in 1993 when the US Catholic Conference said: "Force may be used only to correct a grave, public evil, i.e., aggression or massive violation of the basic human rights of whole populations."
- Comparative justice
- While there may be rights and wrongs on all sides of a conflict, to override the presumption against the use of force, the injustice suffered by one party must significantly outweigh that suffered by the other. Some theorists...omit this term, seeing it as fertile ground for exploitation by bellicose regimes.
- Legitimate authority
- Only duly constituted public authorities may wage war.
- Right intention
- Force may be used only in a truly just cause and solely for that purpose—correcting a suffered wrong is considered a right intention, while material gain or maintaining economies is not.
- Probability of success
- Arms may not be used in a futile cause or in a case where disproportionate measures are required to achieve success.
- Last resort
- Force may be used only after all peaceful and viable alternatives have been seriously tried and exhausted or are clearly not practical. It may be clear that the other side is using negotiations as a delaying tactic and will not make meaningful concessions.
- The anticipated benefits of waging a war must be proportionate to its expected evils or harms.
For all that, as I said, Fr. Ernesto and I largely agree. I do wish to underscore one area of agreement here. Fr. Ernesto writes, "the Anabaptists remind us that verbal violence is just as bad as physical violence. This is why Our Lord said that to even call our brother a fool was tantamount to murder." There is also the matter, as highlighted by Fr. Ernesto, of accurately representing our opponents' positions on issues; Christians must not bear false witness.