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May AD 2011
Our Lady of the Rosary
Parish Bulletin

Perjured Oath of Office
Cost-Plus-No-Bid Contracts?
Mercenaries for Revolutions?



    Question:  You wrote that some politicians have taken office through perjury.  Isn't perjury lying in a court of law?

       Answer:  Lying is not so much the substance of perjury as taking an oath to tell the truth, and breaking that oath by lying.  It is the violation of the oath that constitutes perjury, and it would be perjury even if the subject of the oath were something other than truth telling.  The dictionary tells us:

    per·ju·ry \\ˈpər-jə-rē\  n. the voluntary violation of an oath or vow either by swearing to what is untrue or by omission to do what has been promised under oath: false swearing.[1]

    In the United States most politicians, military personnel, and law enforcement officers swear an oath to “uphold,” or “protect,” or “defend the Constitution of the United States (and the Constitution of the State of Xxxxx).”  Particularly in the case of politicians, this oath is often followed by a speech outlining the ways in which the oath taker intends to violate the Constitution—a speech written some time before taking the oath, so there can be no doubt that the oath was taken with the intent to deceive.  It is unreasonable to hold that a person could hold office or derive other material benefits when perjury is at the heart of obtaining that office or benefits.

    In Florida (and perhaps other states), the vast majority of the citizens have taken an oath as described above, for it is part of the process of registering to vote.  This should be visible in the inset showing the signature line for the Voter Registration application: This widespread taking of the oath to protect and defend the Constitution makes it incumbent upon the citizens to observe the Constitution, not simply because it is the Law of the Land, but also because they have freely sworn to do so.



Question:  What is a “cost-plus-no-bid contract” (April Q&A) and what is the moral problem with it?

Answer:  Citizens have the right to expect that their government will spend their money in such a way as to obtain the greatest value for each dollar spent.  Generally this is done through competitive bidding of contracts.  The government agency will put together a specification for what is needed, allow firms in the appropriate industry(s) to submit secret bids for the work, and then award a contract to the lowest bidder.  To chose a firm based on personal relationships or political contributions would be a serious breach of the public trust.  Since the April article dealt with contracts to private military companies, one might occasionally find that the need for speed in letting the contract could justify awarding the contract on the basis of past performance—”we need the troops now, not after a two month long bidding process, and we know that the XYZ company can supply them”  Hopefully, such a no-bid situation should be relatively rare—yet it seems not to be.[2]

    A “cost-plus” contract is one in which the contractor is paid for all of his expenses, plus a percentage of those expenses as his profit.  This has the obvious effect of inducing the contractor to spend as much as possible to get the job done.  He will also be willing to enlist his inefficient friends as sub-contractors since he has no reason to economize, and because they may reciprocate on future contracts.  The more he spends, the more he can bill.  Contractors joke about the one with the cost-plus contract always being willing to buy dinner for his fellows—the cost of the dinner just gets added to the cost of the contracted job, and increases the basis on which the profit percentage is calculated.  The article cited above claims that the percentage is customarily between one and seven percent.

    Since we are talking about the morality of military spending, it should be pointed out that the nation must follow its own laws in deciding to wage war.  In the United States that means a declaration of war by both houses of Congress.  Apart from the need of immediate protection, it is not up to the President or the military establishment to begin hostilities.



Question:  In connection with last month's article on mercenary soldiers, may a country defend itself against revolution with mercenaries rather than with its own  troops?

Answer:  Last month we noted that there are international laws—not recognized by all countries—that prohibit the use of mercenaries or deprive them of the protections accorded to regular army troops if taken prisoners of war.  The prohibitions generally stem from the inability of a nation to control the mercenaries in its employ, lest they act in ways directed towards personal gain and not permitted in pursuing a just war (looting, raping, destroying, etc.).  A country with little or no army of its own would be less likely to control its mercenaries than one with many citizen troops.  There is also the matter that foreign mercenaries might be more willing to shoot a nation's inhabitants than would be their fellow citizens.

    Perhaps more importantly, we ought to inquire about the morality of revolution.  Do people have the right to rise up against an oppressive regime—and do oppressive regimes have the right to defend themselves against uprising.  Pope Pius IX answered this question partially in his Syllabus of Errors:

    63 [Condemned]. It is lawful to refuse obedience to legitimate princes, and even to rebel against them. [3]

    We have italicized the word “legitimate” in Pope Pius' pronouncement, as it is a long standing teaching of moral theologians that tyrannical rule is not legitimate, and that revolution against a tyrant would not be condemned by the proposition.  Saint Thomas Aquinas explains:

    A tyrannical government is not just, because it is directed, not to the common good, but to the private good of the ruler, as the Philosopher [Aristotle] states (Polit. iii, 5; Ethic. viii, 10). Consequently there is no sedition in disturbing a government of this kind, unless indeed the tyrant's rule be disturbed so inordinately, that his subjects suffer greater harm from the consequent disturbance than from the tyrant's government. Indeed it is the tyrant rather that is guilty of sedition, since he encourages discord and sedition among his subjects, that he may lord over them more securely; for this is tyranny, being conducive to the private good of the ruler, and to the injury of the multitude.[4]

    Theologians distinguish between two types of tyrants: usurpers, and oppressors.  The usurper is one who takes office illegally, perhaps through violence or fraud.  As such, he is a criminal and may be resisted or overthrown.  The oppressor is one who is in office legally but then uses his power to harm his subjects.  He too may be resisted, but it is less clear that he may be forcefully removed or killed.

    Most theologians see the removal of a tyrant as something for the legitimate government to bring about.  In the case of the usurper, this may be the legitimate ruler if there is one.  In both cases it is preferable that those in legitimate authority decree the removal of the tyrant.  Some theologians hold that a unanimous agreement of the people could order the death of a tyrant, with a smaller number justifying less violent removal or even armed resistance.  As The Catholic Encyclopedia puts it:

[T]heologians like … Aquinas, Suarez, and Bañez …  permitted rebellion against oppressive rulers when the tyranny had become extreme and when no other means of safety were available. This merely carried to its logical conclusion the doctrine of the Middle Ages that the supreme ruling authority comes from God through the people for the public good. As the people immediately give sovereignty to the ruler, so the people can deprive him of his sovereignty when he has used his power oppressively.[5]

It stands to reason that for a people to remove a tyrant they must band together to create a suitable replacement government.  Things could be far worse if a number of warring factions replaced the tyrant—and if “the supreme ruling authority comes from God through the people” there has to be substantial agreement amongst “the people.”

    Given this substantial agreement it seems that a legitimate revolutionary government would have little trouble in forming its own army to displace the tyrant.  Inability to do so would suggest that the tyrant wasn't really all that bad, or that there is no unified group to select a new government.  Nonetheless, apart from the reservations expressed last month (mostly about the ability to control the actions of the mercenaries) it seems reasonable that the revolutionary government be allowed to enlist the help of mercenaries.

    Governments coming to the aid of the revolutionaries would, of course, be required to follow their own laws and any international laws to which they were signatories.  In the U.S. a congressional declaration of war would be required under both the national Constitution and the U.N. Charter.[6]

    The tyrant, since his rule is not just, has no right to command troops or hire mercenaries—and less so if his intention is hire people willing to fire on those of his own nationality.

    [7]  The violence is sectarian, Moslems vs. Catholics.  The incumbent leader Laurent Gbagbo, supports the Catholics, but he lost an election to president-elect Allasane Ouattara last year.  Ouattara has the support of soldiers descended from Burkina Faso Moslem immigrant families—people who were invited into the country as laborers back when the economy was flourishing.  Something like a thousand people were murdered recently in and around the Salesian Saint Teresa of the Child Jesus mission in Duekoue near the Liberian border by supporters of Ouattara.  But the problem is not clearly cut.  The man who is presumably the legitimately elected leader is allowing mob murder by Moslems—the man who lost the election would protect the Catholics, but they are not altogether innocent, for some years back the immigrant workers became an economic burden when the single crop economy crashed, and the indigenous people began killing the immigrants vigilante style.  The economic problem has been exacerbated by a European Union boycott.  U.N. peacekeepers did nothing to stop the massacre at the Saint Theresa Mission.

    Wow!  The real world is sure more complicated than the text book!  Let's try to sort this out.

    To begin with, (a) the current murders cannot be excused by pointing to murders that took place in the past.  The desire for vengeance is never legitimate.  It would seem that (b) Côte d'Ivoire has no legitimate ruler—the old leader was thrown out in a (presumably) legitimate election—the winner of the election is permitting mass murder.  There is a strong lesson to be learned by national leaders that “borders, language and culture” do matter.[8]  Allowing immigrants with little or no likelihood of inculturation to take up permanent residence in a country is a mistake.  That the particular religious group tends to violence only adds to the difficulties of of absorbing them into the culture.  But “putting the genie back in the bottle” may be an impossible task—particularly since the “genie” has the upper hand.  Partition—the solution engineered by the British in India to combat Moslem-Hindu violence there—may not be possible for the Ivory Coast (Moslem invasion of India had taken place primarily in the north of the country, leaving the south largely Hindu, and making it practical to separate Pakistan and Bangladesh from the south.)

    Perhaps the only thing certain is that the people on both sides have the right to protect themselves from violence.  Whether or not revolution is justified can be known only with more information about the elected leader, but the establishment of a Catholic militia for defensive purposes is certainly in order.  Since there is no question of waging an offensive war, such a militia would meet with no objection of international law by hiring mercenary guards—presuming, of course, that the mercenaries confined themselves to that role.

    As we go to print, (22 April AD 2011) the latest news is that Laurent Gbagbo was captured by French and UN troops, and the Moslem forces under Allasane Ouattara have “raped and murdered their way down the Ivorian coast … and descended on Abidjan like a plague.”[9]  The plot thickens when one considers the interference of the UN in last year's election, which was considered illegitimate by the Ivory Coast courts, and its usurpation of  Ivory Coast's sovereignty.[10]  The French seem to be trying to maintain economic control over French-speaking African countries.  (De Gaulle demanded a ninety percent tithe from any country given independence from France, while insisting that the nations' currencies be tied to the franc.



[1]  Merriam-Webster Dictionary


[3]  Pope Pius IX, Syllabus of Errors,  Condemner proposition #63

[4]  Summa Theoloogica II-II Q22. art. 2 Reply Obj. 3

[5]  Catholic Encyclopedia s.v. “Tyrannicide”

[6]  US Constitution, Article I, section 8.  UN Charter, Article 43.

[7]  HeraldScotland, “The next Rwanda? ‘In all districts of Abidjan there is gunfire’”

[8]  Michael Savage's phrase.




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