Conscientious Objection

 Catholicism and Conscientious Objection

What if my conscience prevents my participation in a war?


Some Catholics believe that being a follower of Jesus prevents their participation in either all wars or certain wars that they consider to be unjust. Although the Catholic Church recognizes selective conscientious objection (refusing to fight in a particular war), the United States government does not. The U.S. government respects the right of individuals to refuse to fight in a war when he or she "by reason of religious training and belief, is conscientiously opposed to war in any form."


The U.S. Bishops’ Declaration on Conscientious Objection and Selective Conscientious Objection, (1971) states, "In the light of the Gospel and from an analysis of the church’s teaching on conscience, it is clear that a Catholic can be a conscientious objector to war in general or to a particular war ‘because of religious training and belief.' ...As we hold individuals in high esteem who conscientiously serve in the armed forces, so also we should regard conscientious objection and selective conscientious objection as positive indicators within the Church of a sound moral awareness and respect for human life."


Pax Christi USA, a section of Pax Christi International, a non-profit, non-governmental Catholic peace movement, has a variety or resources available for Catholics considering conscientious objection.


The Center for Conscience is an excellent resource for comprehensive information about conscientious objection, the draft, and registration for the draft. In addition, the Center for Conscience has a registry where a young person may keep a file documenting his or her convictions against war. Two helpful documents from the COC: