Today is the first day of August 2014. One hundred years ago this month, the Great War began spreading across Europe. World War I commemorations are now shifting into high gear. I will attend more than a few of them this year; and my son has written a very fine book about the First World War in Belgium.

It seems to me, there are two great things the Great War accomplished very effectively: First, it was a great human slaughter, leaving more than 16 million dead and more than 20 million wounded. Secondly, it greatly set the stage and laid the foundations for the Second World War.

For many years, teaching historical theology and theological ethics, I was very good at laying down the principles for “a just war.”

Just before President G.W. Bush launched his War in Iraq, I was invited to give a one day lecture and discussion, to about thirty US Catholic Chaplains in Europe, on the principles of a just war and whether or not those principles would apply to an impending war in Iraq.

I reviewed the principles in an overhead slide presentation. Then I said slowly and firmly: “gentlemen I don’t see how it can be justified.” One of our American auxiliary bishops, from the Military Archdiocese, who was attending my presentation, banged the table, stood up, and left the room in an angry rage. (He got in his military chauffeured car and disappeared.)

A very youngish chaplain then began to sob. He looked at me and said: “So what will we do when it happens?” Some of the older chaplains were a bit peeved by the young priest. I looked at him across the room, eye to eye and said: “You go to Iraq and you must be the best chaplain you can be to those men and women, because they will need you, an understanding and supportive chaplain, more than ever.”

Ah yes….the ethical principles for a just war. A much older man now, I am absolutely convinced that the very idea of a just war is impossible. Justice is lost as soon as the fighting begins.

War is not about victory or defeat. It is about the total failure of the human spirit……in Gaza, in the Ukraine, in Afghanistan, in Iraq. Pick your location. There are many to choose from.

Today’s wars are only greatly killing people, destroying cities and the countryside; and greatly setting the stage and laying the foundations for tomorrow’s wars.

We are bright and talented people. We can conceive and create ever-mini, mini-computers and ever-smarter, smartphones. It is time that we conceive and create the strategies and structures for living peacefully with each-other.

For Christians, making-peace is not just a challenge it is a responsibility.


10 thoughts on “The Great War

  1. You are so right! We can achieve so much – why not peace? People in power and the great financial structures keeping them there have to want peace. I’m not convinced our great leaders of industry and the lobbyists they pay want peace any more than they would want an energy economy based on solar and wind.

    1. Thanks Mona…and it is great to hear from you again.

      Jack _______________________________ John Alonzo Dick PhD, STD Historical Theologian Leuven/Louvain


  2. Jack, good insight into what our mission is/was as Army Chaplains. Walking with soldiers and their families is a humbling privilege.

    1. Well as you know I have been a strong supporter of our chaplains fir many years.

      Jack _______________________________ John Alonzo Dick PhD, STD Historical Theologian Leuven/Louvain


  3. Indeed we do have a responsibility for peace but not at any price. We have a responsibility for Freedom also and at times this must be fought for.

    It seems to me that most wars are initiated by those afforded worldly power but fought by those who are not usually aware of the real reasons for them and left little choice but to do the bidding of those in power. Thus the pursuit of truth and the courage to speak it is basic to Christianity. “All it takes for Evil to prevail is that good men remain silent” Edmund Burke.

    I am over halfway through reading “In God’s Name” by David Yallop, first published 1984, reprinted 2007 (available at Amazon). It is the strongest evidence yet that the Vatican has been and likely still is, a primary worldly power, almost totally corrupted by its major financial links with the Mafia and freemasonry via the P2 organisation, which has numbered among its members many high ranking Vatican bishops and cardinals, many of which have knowingly participated in the corruption and hypocrisy of Vatican financial dealings through The Vatican Bank and its many links in financial circles.

    If we take our Christianity seriously, it is up to us to openly speak of our concerns and clean up our own house. I would urge all who have not done so. to read this book.

    Best Wishes

    Mari Riker ( formerly Mari Sutcliffe of UK, now remarried to a US citizen and living in Texas USA. Hello again Jack!)

      1. Many thanks Jack. I am delighted to be back.Not yet said “Hello” to any Catholic Churches or clergy in sympathy with our aims. Any recommendations or links to such would be much appreciated.I live in Spicewood currently although this may soon change to New Mexico.

        Hope all is going well for you and your family. Any reply to the letter to the Vatican? If not, it may soon be time for mine to get off the keyboard. Ha!


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