Thomism Goes to War

25 Jan 2024
4:00 pm


Heritage Hall in Father O'Connell Hall, Catholic University
599 Michigan Ave NE, Washington, DC 20064

Join the IHE for its second Annual Lecture on Catholic Political Thought. Dr. Gregory M. Reichberg will give this year’s lecture, “Thomism Goes to War.” 

Watch the recording here.

Saint Thomas Aquinas is often credited, alongside Saint Augustine, with being the initiator of what has come to be called the “just war tradition.” Indeed, Aquinas’s short Summa Theologiae article (II-II, q. 40, a. 1) “whether any war is licit,” has spawned many pages of commentary. It remains a key point of reference up to the present day.

Curiously, however, Aquinas had little to say about the wars of his own time. We rarely find him applying his famous three criteria (legitimate authority, just cause, right intention) to assess, for instance, the crusades or other armed initiatives then underway.

Nonetheless the realities of armed conflict were brought very close to home when his older brother Reynaud, a knight at the service of the pope, was executed by the emperor’s troops. This led Aquinas to reflect on whether holy martyrdom could apply to soldiers fallen in battle. Subsequent Thomists have followed his example and brought their thought to bear on concrete matters of war.

Dr. Gregory M. Reichberg will review some of these engagements (vis-à-vis the conquest of the New World, the Spanish Civil War, and the Second World War) and indicate what lessons can be drawn for us today.

Featuring as respondents: Dr. Andrew Latham, Dr. Valerie Morkevičius, and Dr. Daniel Philpott.

This event is cosponsored by the Thomistic Institute and the Project on Constitutional Originalism and the Catholic Intellectual Tradition.


  • Andrew Latham
    Andrew Latham
    Professor of Political Science, Macalester University

    Professor Latham is a professor of International Relations specializing in the politics of international conflict and security. He teaches courses on international security, Chinese foreign policy, war and peace in the Middle East, regional security in the Indo-Pacific Region, and U.S. grand strategy. He was formerly the Nonproliferation, Arms Control, and Disarmament Fellow at the Canadian Department of Foreign Affairs and International Trade, and a lecturer at the Canadian Armed Forces School of Aerospace Studies. Currently, He is a Senior Fellow at the Institute for Peace and Diplomacy in Ottawa, and a Non-Resident Fellow with Defense Priorities in Washington, DC. Professor Latham regularly writes — and speaks to the media and community groups — about war, geopolitics, and strategic affairs, with a special focus on issues related to great power competition (U.S. vs. China; U.S. vs. Russia), regional conflict and security (the Middle East, the Arctic, and the Western Pacific), and U.S. defense policy.

    BA: York University, Honours, Toronto
    MA: Queen’s University, Kingston
    PhD: York University, Toronto

  • Daniel Philpott
    Daniel Philpott
    Professor of Political Science, University of Notre Dame

    Daniel Philpott is Professor of Political Science at the University of Notre Dame. He earned his Ph.D. in 1996 from Harvard University and specializes in religion and global politics, focusing on religious freedom, reconciliation, the political behavior of religious actors, and Christian political theology. His monographs include Revolutions in Sovereignty (Princeton, 2001), God’s Century: Resurgent Religion in Global Politics (Norton, 2011, coauthored with Monica Duffy Toft and Timothy Samuel Shah), Just and Unjust Peace: An Ethic of Political Reconciliation (Oxford, 2012) and Religious Freedom in Islam: The Fate of a Universal Human Right in the Muslim World (Oxford, 2019). He has promoted reconciliation as an activist in Kashmir and the Great Lakes Region of Africa.

  • Gregory M. Reichberg
    Gregory M. Reichberg
    Research Professor, Peace Research Institute Oslo (PRIO)

    Gregory M. Reichberg is Research Professor at the Peace Research Institute Oslo (PRIO). He previously served as a faculty member in the School of Philosophy at The Catholic University of America.

    He leads Warring with Machines: Military Applications of Artificial Intelligence and the Relevance of Virtue Ethics, a four-year project funded by the Research Council of Norway’s Research Programme on the Cultural Conditions Underlying Social Change (SAMKUL).

    His writings include a monograph Thomas Aquinas on War and Peace (Cambridge University Press, 2017), named an “Outstanding Academic Title 2017” by Choice magazine.

    He has also published several co-edited volumes, including Robotics, AI, and Humanity: Science, Ethics, and Policy (Springer, 2021); Religion, War, and Ethics: A Sourcebook of Textual Traditions (Cambridge University Press, 2014); World Religions and Norms of War (United Nations University Press, 2009); and The Ethics of War: Classic and Contemporary Readings (Blackwell Publishing, 2006).

    His recent publications include a co-authored book chapter “AI in Cyber Operations: Ethical and Legal Considerations for End-Users (in Artificial Intelligence and Cybersecurity, Springer, 2023); “Applying AI on the Battlefield: The Ethical Debates” (with Henrik Syse), in Robotics, AI, and Humanity (Springer, 2021); “Philosophical Debate on Deterrence,” in Forbidden: Receiving Pope Francis’s Condemnation of Nuclear Weapons (Georgetown University Press, 2023), and “From the Nuclear Family to the Family of Nations: Exploring the Analogy,” in The Family as Relational Good: The Challenge of Love (Libreria Editrice Vaticana, 2023).

    From 2012-2020 he headed the Oslo-based Research School on Peace and Conflict, and from 2009-2012 he was director of the PRIO Cyprus Centre in Nicosia, where he coordinated research and dialogue activities on the search for a political settlement to the island’s division.

    Dr. Reichberg has been an Ordinarius in the Pontifical Academy of Social Sciences since 2016. In 2021 he was appointed consultor to the Holy See’s Dicastery for Promoting Integral Human Development, headquartered in Vatican City. His contribution focuses on disarmament, the ethical implications of new military technologies, and broader issues of war and peace.

  • Valerie Morkevičius
    Valerie Morkevičius
    Associate Professor and Chair of Political Science, Colgate University

    Valerie Morkevičius is the author of Realist Ethics: Just War Traditions as Power Politics, which uses an exploration of the history of the Christian, Islamic, and Hindu traditions to reveal that just war thinking is no stranger to pragmatic politics. Her other work focuses on the intersection between power and ethics, and the applicability of traditional just war thinking to contemporary challenges, including cyberwarfare and information warfare.

Comments are closed.