We Needed to Drop the A-Bomb

Having just received my second issue of This Rock, the December issue, I eagerly reviewed the articles and came upon the Quick Questions section. The first question concerned the morality of dropping the atomic bomb on Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Could a Catholic justify such an act under the just war theory? As a retired instructor of international relations, political science, and history—and a Catholic on top of that—I can say, without question, yes.

First, the war in Europe was over, and the U.S. was supplying oil to Europe. If the Japanese war didn’t end in three months, we would have had a hard time sustaining the conflict to a successful conclusion. Second, the best military estimates concluded that the Japanese would have lost between 1 million and 3 million lives in an invasion of Japan, plus one-half to 1 million American lives. Third, the Japanese government was asked to surrender and they consistently refused, even when their industrial cities had been devastated. Finally, given the Japanese culture, the people would have fought to the bitter end if the emperor required them to do so.

Weigh these facts against the 300,000 casualties total that resulted from the use of the bombs on the two cities and the conclusion is that its use was indeed the correct decision at the time. The cause was just, and the action was just based on existing evidence. If the goal were to terrorize the civilian population, why were two industrial cities chosen and not just any old big cities? The doctrine of doing the least wrong would apply here. Certainly the death list was a lot shorter because of the use of the bomb. And if you start quoting revisionists historians, beware—they just got it wrong.

My father returned from the war in 1946. He would have been killed in an invasion of Japan.

— Neal F. Johnson
Reedley, California

Editor’s reply: Your arguments concern weighing individual evils—difficulty in carrying the war effort further, number of Japanese deaths, number of American deaths—against each other and seeking the solution that results in the least harm. These are important considerations in evaluating the moral status of an act, but they are not sufficient to show that an act is moral. One of the main points of John Paul II’s 1993 encyclical
Veritatis Splendor is that some actions are intrinsically evil and can never be done, regardless of the consequences.

One such act, as he stressed in his 1995 encyclical Evangelium Vitae, is the deliberate killing of innocents. Non-combatants cannot be deliberately targeted in wartime. One cannot do evil that good may come of it. The ends do not justify the means.

The Catechism of the Catholic Church states:

Every act of war directed to the indiscriminate destruction of whole cities or vast areas with their inhabitants is a crime against God and man, which merits firm and unequivocal condemnation. A danger of modern warfare is that it provides the opportunity to those who possess modern scientific weapons—especially atomic, biological, or chemical weapons—to commit such crimes. (CCC 2314)

Not to Name Names


I think the article "Are Old Testament Women Nameless, Silent, Passive Victims?" by Catherine Brown Tkacz (December 2006) was excellent. She wrote in detail concerning the many contributions made by women in Old Testament times. It is fitting and proper that these women receive ample recognition for their achievements, which were often under the guidance of God.

But there is one section of the article that I object to, since it is not supported by biblical evidence:

In these examples, more men than women are nameless. Adele Reinhartz has shown that that pattern holds true throughout the Bible. Women are more frequently named, end entire books bear their names: Ruth, Judith, Esther, and in several Eastern traditions, Susanna.

When I read the book of Ruth, I noticed seven feminine names—Naomi, Orpah, Ruth, Mara, Rachel, Leah, and Tamar—whereas fourteen masculine names appear. In the book of Judith, I saw only one feminine name: that of Judith herself, whereas I noticed about thirty-four masculine names. The book of Esther contains four feminine names: Vashti, Hadassah, Esther, and Zeresh but has about thirty-nine masculine names. The story of Susanna is found in the book of Daniel. Strangely enough, Susanna is the only woman mentioned in the entire book, but about twenty-six different men are named.

In the New Testament, Matthew’s Gospel mentions eight women: Tamar, Rahab, Ruth, Mary, Rachel, Herodias, Mary Magdalene, and Mary the mother of James and Joseph. I counted about eighty-three different men named.

It is true that three books of the Bible are named after women, but about forty-nine books are named after men.

Therefore, the statement that "women are more frequently named" is not supported by biblical evidence.

— Charles Mastrangelo
San Diego, California

Catherine Brown Tkacz replies: I appreciate Mr. Mastrangelo’s strong affirmation of my essay as a whole and welcome the chance to respond to him. As he notes, the statement he objects to occurs in the context of a discussion of persons in the Bible who are unnamed and those who are named.

Adele Reinhartz’s point here is rather complex, because she is comparing proportions, not raw numbers. One proportion is of men named in the Bible, such as Job or Daniel, compared to all men referred to specifically but without name, e.g., as "son" or "Elder" or "the magi." The other, higher proportion is of women named in the Bible, such as Susanna or Judith, compared to all women referred to specifically but without name, e.g., as "daughter" or "widow" or "Samaritan woman." Reinhartz finds that when one compares the two proportions, a larger proportion of the women are named.

Put another way, a larger proportion of the men go nameless. Thus, her point is that women are named more frequently than men are. This does not imply that there are more women than men identified in the Bible, or even that there are equal numbers of men and women specified within it. It means that when a woman is referred to in the Bible, she is more likely than a man to be named.

I apologize for any apparent ambiguity on this matter in my article. It had seemed to me less useful to the readers of This Rock to have this full explanation than to have more detail about specific biblical women. In practical terms, adding a full explanation of Reinhartz’s point would have meant cutting one of the essay’s paragraphs or omitting the biblical citations throughout. Readers, I thought, would prefer access to the numerous Scripture verses on women and would find the short statement of Reinhartz’s work sufficient. On the whole, I suspect this is true. I hope Mr. Mastrangelo will find my culpa to have been minima.

Old School Remorse


I want to take this opportunity to tell you how much I enjoy your magazine. Sometimes a negative item prompts a letter. This is one of those times.

I am citing the December 2006 issue. Someone asked about confessing a sin. The answer Michelle Arnold gave was very confusing. I’m from the old school and believe we should have remorse for our sins, to be truly sorry. If in our hearts we have no remorse, how can God forgive us? He knows our minds and hearts.

If one is not sorry, why even go to confession? Anyone with a conscience surely has control over emotions.

This answer was too watered down. We need right or wrong answers, not beating around the bush. The answer just gives license to sin again because this answer says it’s okay.

Oh, I still like the magazine. We all need help.

— Pauline Skocelas
Saginaw, Michigan

Editor’s reply: Michelle’s answer was not "watered down" but was right on the mark. As much as we’d like black-and-white answers, Catholic theology is much more nuanced than that. In his 1962 manual for priests and seminarians, Nicholas Halligan, O.P., states:

For the valid reception of the sacrament any contrition must be true and internal, that is, not only expressed in words or signs but embraced principally by the heart and soul. It is an act of the will detesting sin committed. It need not be sensibly "felt," as it can be present together with dryness, tedium, etc. Lack of intensity in the act or of an accompanying sensibility do not necessarily affect the penitent’s resolution to abandon sin and to fulfill his obligations. (The Administration of the Sacraments, Alba House, 219)

Correction: In Tim Staples’s By the Book column "You Can’t Get Past this Rock" (November 2006), we mistakenly edited one of his points to read: " Petros and petra are actually two separate words, not simply forms of the same word." In reality, in Koine Greek (the dialect of Greek used by the authors of the New Testament), petros and petra are masculine and feminine forms of words with the same root and the same definition—"rock." We regret the error.

This article appeared in Volume 18 Number 2.