Chapter  45

Student: Discuss the third point implied in my response to the argument made above in chapter 43, and you stated that it was held by some to be contrary to the truth.

Master: The third point which your response implied is that under no circumstance is someone permitted to wage public or private war without the ruler's authority, in other words that it is not permitted to anyone to kill someone else without the ruler's authority. This does not appear to be true. For a highway robber may be killed by anyone without the ruler's authority (Codex, Quando liceat unicuique sine iudicio se vindicare, lib. primo)[rather: Book III, title 27], and the gloss notes this at 23 q. 3 c. Fortitudo [col. 1294] and at q. 5 c. Cum homo [col. 1344] and in Extra, De immunitate ecclesiarum, Inter alias [col. 1406]. Again, it is permitted to anyone to resist force with force without the authority of a ruler or judge (dis. 1 Ius naturale)[col. 2]. But sometimes force cannot be resisted unless the attacker is killed, therefore in that case it is permitted to wage at least a private war without the ruler's authority. Again, a people is duty bound to defend its country against those wishing to kill the people and devastate the country no less than a private person is bound to defend himself and his private possessions. But a private person is allowed to defend himself and his private possessions without the ruler's authority, and to kill lest he be killed. Therefore all the more is it permitted to the whole people to defend itself against enemies when the ruler is absent, and to wage a public war lest it be killed and the country ravaged.

Student: Why do these commentators strive to condemn this third point.

Master: They condemn it so as to derive an argument from the contrary truth proving that it is permitted to preachers and doctors or masters to publicly preach and teach without mandate from any ecclesiastical superior that the doctrine of a heretic pope is inimical to catholic truth.

Student: How is this proved.

Master: In this fashion. A spiritual war against a spiritual enemy who is attempting to spiritually annihilate through heretical wickedness not just a private person but also the entire community of believers, is not more illegal (even without the authority of a mortal ruler inferior to God) than a physical war against one who wishes to physically destroy a private person or some population. But one is permitted to wage physical war both private and public without the ruler's authority. Therefore all the more is it permitted to preachers and doctors or masters to wage spiritual war without the authority of a mortal ruler against a heretic pope who intends to spiritually annihilate the entire multitude of true believers through heretical wickedness. Therefore they are allowed to effectively condemn his false doctrine and to overcome it publicly.

Student: How does one respond to the authorities which seem to say that no one is allowed to wage war without the ruler's mandate.

Master: They all receive a single answer, in that they all must be understood as operating when the authority of the ruler is conveniently available. If however the ruler's authority is not conveniently available, either because of his absence or because of his lack of knowledge or power, or because of his wicked disposition, one is allowed, if the cause is just and reasonable, to wage not only private but also public war without his authority.

Student: This reply suggests that in many cases, or because of the ruler's different conditions, it is permitted to wage war without his authority. Explain the aforementioned cases by some examples.

Master: It somehow seems possible to explain everything by a single example. Let us indeed assume that some powerful king or people unjustly attacks a given city, fully intent on exterminating all the citizens and utterly destroying the city. If in this case the ruler of the city is absent, so that the citizens are unable to obtain his authority and directive, or if the ruler has lost his mind or is otherwise incapacitated so that he can give them no directive, or alternatively if the ruler himself wickedly attempts to betray the city, that city has the right to wage war in self-defence without the ruler's consent, even, to be sure, should he strongly resist this initiative. Whence it might be shown by copious examples that many peoples and communities frequently deposed their kings and rulers with justice, and afterwards elected rulers for themselves. From which it similarly appears that a people, if its cause was just and reasonable, could have waged war against a ruler who was to be deposed without the ruler's authority.