I was on Eric Gajewski’s show today to continue our conversation about Just War, particularly as it applies to the atomic bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Part one is here. What follows is an abbreviated transcript put together by ChatGPT. If you would like to listen to the full interview, go to TradCatKnight.org
Eric: Jeff, thank you for joining us again. We had a fruitful discussion last month, and it would be great to pick up from there. Let’s quickly recap our previous conversation before delving into today’s topics.
Jeff: Last month, we extensively reviewed the Church’s teaching on the just war doctrine. This isn’t merely an opinion but a foundational doctrine that we, as believers, are committed to uphold. While St. Thomas Aquinas is often cited as an authority on this, the doctrine transcends his views and is integral to the Church’s teachings.
The doctrine outlines key elements, including ‘jus ad bellum,’ which refers to the legitimate reasons to engage in war. It encompasses necessary conditions like just cause, right intention, and the probability of success. Another crucial aspect is ‘jus in bello,’ governing the ethical conduct within the warfare, ensuring actions are proportionate and discriminate.
We discussed the importance of distinguishing between civilians and combatants, ensuring proportionality in conduct, and abstaining from evil means. The fair treatment of prisoners is also paramount. These principles provided a foundation for our examination of the bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki through a Catholic lens.
We initially intended to address this topic last month to coincide with the anniversary in August. Although we are two months behind, the issue remains relevant, as it resurfaces annually. It’s noteworthy that there exists a significant dissent concerning these doctrines within Catholic circles.
Let’s delve directly into the events of Hiroshima on August 6, 1945. By most accounts, 70,000 people perished instantly, and the death toll rose to 140,000 within 90 days. While there is a debate surrounding these figures, the numbers I’ve cited represent a general consensus.
Some claim the death toll was much higher, while others suggest a lower count. However, the figures I’ve provided are generally considered reasonable and are often cited in discussions about the event.
The magnitude of the tragedy becomes even more apparent when compared to other significant issues, such as abortion in the United States. To put it in perspective, consider that Planned Parenthood reports about 3,000 abortions per day, equating to a similar number of lives lost.
This is a staggering figure. For those opposed to abortion, these numbers should be profoundly unsettling. Particularly because out of this number, only an estimated 7,000 were military personnel. It’s alarming, especially for Catholics, to realize that the United States Government intentionally targeted a civilian population center where at most 10% were military personnel.
In fact, some estimates suggest that military personnel made up about 5-6% of the casualties. This realization should immediately stir our consciences, especially in light of the teachings on war. Moving on to Nagasaki, which occurred three days later on August 9, there is a general consensus that approximately 40,000 people died instantly, with the death toll rising to 60,000 by the end of the year.
Of those 60,000, it’s estimated that about 10% were military personnel. Another significant point to note about Nagasaki, which many listeners may already be aware of, is that it was the center of Catholicism in Japan.
Eric: I recall discovering this through Dave DDCS’s YouTube videos years ago when we were still in contact. He has insightful content, particularly videos that delve into the reasons behind the targeting of Nagasaki.
Jeff: Indeed, the regime had its own narrative, often dismissed as propaganda. However, it’s challenging to overlook the fact that the spire of the Catholic Cathedral in the city was a specific target. This detail suggests that the bombing was not indiscriminate.
We may not have the time, nor the historical expertise, to delve into all the theories surrounding this event. However, we, along with our audience, can objectively apply the Church’s teachings to these events and assess whether the conduct aligns with Catholic principles.
To cut to the chase, the answer is a resounding no. Let’s quickly go over the points to see if we’re in agreement. Does that sound good? Alright.
Returning to the principles outlined by St. Thomas, the first section addresses the right to go to war – ‘jus ad bellum’. This doesn’t pertain to the bombing of Hiroshima specifically, but to World War Two as a whole, which is a complex discussion in itself.
I encourage people to explore recent publications that challenge the typical American narrative about the war. It’s essential to remember that history is often written by the victors.
Approximately 80 years have passed, and we’re beginning to see literature that examines the war and the lead-up to American involvement from different perspectives, offering alternative explanations.
I urge our listeners to consider these aspects: just cause, right intention, probability of success, and the view of war as a last resort. On the surface, it appears that the United States satisfied these criteria in the aftermath of Pearl Harbor.
However, recent revelations have cast some doubt on this perspective. Declassified information reveals the extent of Roosevelt’s behind-the-scenes efforts to propel the country into war and his strategic maneuvers in both the Pacific and Atlantic to provoke either the Japanese or Germans into attacking.
I wouldn’t claim that Roosevelt had specific knowledge of the time, method, and location of the Japanese attack. However, it’s reasonably certain that he anticipated an attack on Pearl Harbor.
He took no steps to warn the commanders stationed there, leading to a contentious debate. For the sake of argument, let’s assume the United States had a just cause for war, the right intention, a probable chance of success, and viewed war as a last resort, ensuring proportionality.
Moving on to the right conduct in war, we delve deeper into the core issues surrounding Hiroshima and Nagasaki. The Church’s teaching is unequivocal: directly targeting non-combatants is impermissible. Yet, that’s precisely what occurred in Hiroshima and Nagasaki.
Even if one argues that there were military targets within those cities, the undeniable fact is that the overwhelming majority of casualties were civilians. This isn’t up for debate; it’s a well-documented historical fact.
So, we are compelled to question whether this was a proportional response and if it truly was a last resort. Again, the answer is a resounding no. Alternative options and means to induce a Japanese surrender were available.
The decision to deploy atomic bombs on civilian population centers should give every Catholic, every Christian, and indeed every person of conscience, a moment of profound pause.
We must reflect deeply on this, as the implications of that decision continue to echo globally. We inhabit a world where nuclear weapons are a stark reality, and their use in warfare was normalized by those events.
It’s a matter that demands serious consideration. It’s not something to be brushed aside with justifications like ‘it ended the war’ or ‘it saved lives.’ We are still grappling with the moral implications of that act today.
As Catholics, we need to delve deeply into reflections on what our faith instructs us regarding the dignity of the human person, the sanctity of human life, and our obligations to each other as children of God.
I’ll leave it at that for today. It’s a substantial amount to digest and reflect upon. I encourage everyone listening to take time to consider these aspects, pray about them, and seek the Holy Spirit’s guidance as we continue navigating these challenging waters.
We need to be mindful of these considerations, not only in our discussions about war and peace but also regarding the broader moral and ethical challenges confronting our world today.
Some resources you might find helpful:
- History.com – Hiroshima and Nagasaki Bombing Timeline:
- Atomic Heritage Foundation – Hiroshima and Nagasaki:
- The National WWII Museum – The Atomic Bomb:
- URL: The Atomic Bomb
- BBC – Hiroshima: The Story of the First Atom Bomb:
- United Nations – The Effects of Atomic Bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki: