Thomas Aquinas Summa
Topic 1: What limitations do the medieval thinker St. Thomas Aquinas place on the fighting of a war (support your answer with evidence from the primary sources)? Should these limitations be applied to modern warfare? War is the use of violent force between states. It is always sinful as it is contrary to Divine precept, the act of virtue and peace (St. Thomas Aquinas Summa Theologiae Extracts II-II). However, war is sometimes the only mean to solve conflicts. It is permissible only if it is just. St. Thomas Aquinas was a medieval philosopher who had comment on the just war theory based on Christian morality (Tooke 1965: 52).
The just war theory suggested the conditions to wage a justified war and how to conduct a war in ethical manner. A war is just if all limitations are satisfied. This essay will explain the limitations that Aquinas has placed on the fighting of a war. Also, it will discuss whether these limitations should be applied to modern warfare. Aquinas said it is unlawful to kill any man as human ought to love all God’s creatures (Tooke 1965: 42). War is just only when it is prompted by a just cause (St. Thomas Aquinas Summa Theologiae Extracts II-II).
He said a war must be fought for a reason which carries moral weight. A just cause is either the self-defense against or the punishment to the aggressors. Therefore, anyone who infectious to the community is deserved to banished. It is justified to fight to defend the commonwealth and to impose a penalty to prevent any wrongs from happening (Ramsey 2002: 143). Punishment acts to reform and educate the aggressors (Finnis 1998: 279). The goal of defensive warriors is justly aim at peace but not opposing so they are not guilt.
The just cause induces the community that it is necessary to wage war for justice. The states have the responsibility to demonstrate their just cause behind. War is just if it is declared by legal authority (St. Thomas Aquinas Summa Theologiae Extracts II-II). Aquinas identified the states or their governments as the superior authorities. These authorities usually bound with power and status, people honor them for protection (Tooke 1965: 178). Aquinas wrote that it is unlawful for bishop and cleric to fight. The duty of churchmen is to pray for the people but not fighting.
Warlike pursuits are full of unrest which would hinder their mind from the contemplation of God (Tooke 1965: 23). Likely, it is the duty of the authorities and soldiers to safeguard the commonwealth of the people by means of physical sword (Walzer 1977: 27). Therefore, it is just for them to wage war with an advance declaration before war. The authorities use the sword as commissioned by others so they are not guilt. This bears the practical while escaping all moral responsibilities as these are shared among the whole state (Finnis 1998: 286).
Aquinas claimed that the intention behind the war must be righteous and just (St. Thomas Aquinas Summa Theologiae Extracts II-II). Soldiers are submitted to their authority. They accept official propaganda unquestionably and believe their wars are just. Therefore, it is essential for the authority’s intention to be just. A good intention is the willingness to create, restore or secure peace for all parties (Tooke 1965:279). The intention for righting a wrong and assisting innocent is motivated by a just cause. Moreover, Aquinas said laying ambushes to deceive the enemy is unlawful as the enemy is being cheated.
Faithfulness is vanished (Tooke 1965: 24) and thus deception is a bad intention. Seeking or demonstrating power and taking revenge to hatred enemy are also considered as bad intentions which are unjust. A good intention is not offensive. It regulates the conduct in war. Aquinas said although the wrongdoer’s wickedness is sinful, they retain the right to repent (St. Thomas Aquinas Summa Theologiae Extracts II-II). His concern is that war must be engaged in as a last resort and war must be waged when there is a reasonable chance to be succeeded (Elshtain 1992: 100).