Can a Catholic believe that the U.S. was justified in its decision to drop atomic bombs on Japan during World War II?

By December 25, 2014 17 Comments

Full Question

Can a Catholic believe that the U.S. was justified in its decision to drop atomic bombs on Japan during World War II?


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; cf. Gaudium et Spes 80)

Under the Catholic understanding of just war, not only must the cause of war be just, but the acts of war used in combat must also be just. The use of weapons to destroy civilian populations, such as the atomic bombs dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki, is an unjust act of war. Terrorizing civilian populations to force surrender, which was part of the U.S. strategy in dropping the atomic bombs, is also an unjust act of war. It is therefore problematic for a Catholic to try to justify the U.S. decision.


  • Sylvia says:

    I was not quite a year old when this happen. Perhaps it did the right thing and only way to stop the war throughout the world. It is a tough decision to make. It could happen again, who knows.

  • Loyd McIntire says:

    Saving thousands of American lives justifies the use of the bomb. Keep in mind that the Japanese attacked us.

    • Zama Ndefru says:

      Loyd, doing anything, morally right or not, is fair game for you. You want to tell God that American lives are better than other lives? Tit for tat is the only way to solve a problem?

  • William A. Shewmake says:

    What a bunch of bull, the Japs came looking for it in Hawaii. If we would have not dropped the atomic bomb we would have had to invade Japan, you know how many American lives would have been lost because of that. We didn’t start it we finished it. If you need more info read what the French and West Germans have to say about atomic war, they lived through the evils of war. I am Roman Catholic to my core and you can teach the very young about the bomb but I know what happened. I think it’s all the libs in the Church that do more damage than the bomb.

  • Ajay Singh says:

    Time to unify beyond our inherited religious and political thought to combat pervasive evil perceptions that condone the basis of terrorism and war.
    Many complicated questions confront the world’s leadership and all leading religious instructors who thirst for a unanimous conclusion for global security in the current predicament of nuclear proliferation, terrorism and war, within the context of the moral crisis in political ethics and religious conflicts.
    (1) Is our world leadership united and coherent enough to combat the sources of terrorism and war given the rise of scientific insights that continue to design and manufacture lethal weapons for mass killing (that is, nuclear weapons)? It is the effect of our genetic nature that forces us to use whatever we have created for individual conceptions of safety and peace.
    (2) Is it possible for the entire world led by God for human beings to uproot the sources of religious conflicts that erupt in the blood of massacre? No! They are enthralled in the strictures of their own religious tradition. It is impossible for them to surrender their own religious profession to transcend their own faiths to fill in the religious gaps that divide human perception.
    (3) Do UN bureaucracies and administrations have enough potential to lead the global community on the path toward peace and propel those in positions of leadership to overcome complicated political issues, humanitarian crises, and religious conflicts?
    (4) Are we safe neglecting these larger issues that force us to an unnatural end?
    (5) Do we have ample, sufficient, and appropriate ideas and resources to combat those masterminds that have converted humankind into “lethal bombs”?
    (6) Regarding these most complicated global issues, we will have to promote the graces of literature to construct a platform whereby the world community (even the common public at large) facilitates a unanimous conclusion of the larger questions confronting the world. There are many possibilities to unify the world community by promoting the graces of literature through academic sources under UN observation.
    Please help us to unify beyond our political and religious inherited thoughts for the perpetuation of peace and solidarity. Only Military operation against brutal religious and political violence, campaigns with separate visions, conversation only for suggestions, or the political and religious demonstration, are not enough at all, to prevent the massacres by terrorism and war.
    Please sign and share this petition to achieve the goals in favor of humanity, which not needs any cost or extra efforts.

  • Charles Toshney says:

    The fact thousands of lives may have been saved by the Atomic bombs dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki is something that will forever be quoted in defence of this. I would say that it is up to the individual conscience whether or not this was a necessary act to end a war that had already cost innumerable lives, both civilian and military and was set to claim many more had Japan not surrendered will always be open to debate as it had never before happened in history and God willing it never will as the awesome destruction caused by these weapons is too dreadful to imagine ever being used again.

  • justin says:

    Im a korean. Japan was a demon at that era.
    They killed, tortured, raped many civilian.
    They agreed japanese empires policy.
    And no shame or guilt even among civilian.
    Few of them were honest. So ironical that nagasaki was a city many catholic people lived.
    To save many young innocent US soldiers,
    No option but dropping an atomic bomb.
    Of course, if there had been a better way. It shold have been used.
    I think thats the way world going around.

    • You are right. It saved an equal amount of Americvan lives and Remember Jesus whipped the money changers and god destroyed Sodom and Gomorrah because of it’s evil people. I would prefer god did it but maybe that is why he put us here. Japan is now a thriving city. So yes as a Catholic I can justify the action that ended the war. I was nine years ols at the time and remember how relieved families were. If you remember Japans Emporor told his people it was an act of God when the first bomb was dropped so it became necessary to deop a secind bomb.

  • Dan says:

    Ok who ever wrote this must be a DEMOCRAT. If we hadn’t million more lives would be dead during the invasion of Japan.

  • Zama Ndefru says:

    Oh the sometime double edgedness of the Holy Bible: Remember Psalm 137:7 Raise it! Raise it! Down to its foundations! will cause one to quibble with this response

  • Faith can move mountains. We have to stop at the past hold special you should look into the world in peace a good future.

  • Randall Power says:

    1945… WWII. You need to remember the times. The world was on fire and had been for years. Cities, towns, & villages destroyed by bombs and shells. 10’s of millions killed. Most of Japan’s cities were in ruins and the population was on the verge of starvation. Japan still would not quit. The bombs stopped the war. Millions lived because of them. That is more important than a paragraph in a theological document.

  • Anthony says:

    I doubt the catechism was written by a Democrat. It was Democrats who dropped the Bomb in the first place. Fulton Sheen marks that event as the birth of the culture of death.

  • Gregory says:

    As a Catholic I am disturbed by this article. I want to assume the writer means well but I fear it borders to heresy. It goes against that quote from Catechism.
    Here are some facts about WWII
    1) Rome joined WWII before US. It invaded Ethiopia in 1935 killing thousands. Others who joined WWII before US are Germany, Russia, Poland and JAPAN. JAPAN invaded China.
    2) Pearl Habor was bombed before Hiroshima/Nagasaki
    3) Hiroshima/Nagasaki didn’t contribute the biggest death statistics (leading casuaties were in USSR, Poland,..)
    So is this author attempting to insinuate that other people are exempted from following this teaching? A person ignoring the contribution of Japan to this war shows a very sadistic mindset.
    Can the writer talk about this without asking his audience whether a Catholic can believe that the JAPAN, Russia and ROME were justified in their decision to kill millions during World War II? Why US only?
    Another related article said that US bishops and priests supported the ‘just war’ by not condemning it. Has this writer learned anything from this or is it just fashionable to use selective justice. Is teaching selective justice not heresy.
    Note I am unequivocally against mass killing.

  • Wayne says:

    Hogwash! It saved in the area of hundreds of thousands of American and Japanese lives….. It would have been a blood bath for both sides if we would have had to invade instead of dropping the bomb.

  • It has actually been proven that both of those towns were strategic locations being used for weapon and bomb making. Therefore, it wasn’t “indiscriminate”.

  • Tony McGurk says:

    I wonder if people’s opinions would be different if it had’ve been Japan dropping nukes on a couple of American cities to end the war???

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