To celebrate its hundredth year of publication, Commonweal Magazine is featuring in each issue an essay from one decade of its history. For the January 2024 issue, the magazine has selected Jacques Maritain's "Just War," which was originally published in December 1939 at the onset of the Second World War. As Commonweal's editors note,
Throughout the rest of Commonweal’s first century, it has continued to weigh its positions on war against the criteria Maritain outlines. Writers like George Shuster, Thomas Merton, Daniel Berrigan, William Pfaff, Andrew J. Bachevich, William T. Cavanaugh, and Phil Klay, to name just a few, have reckoned in these pages with the moral and spiritual implications of, among many other events, the widespread American Catholic support for Franco in the Spanish Civil War, Vietnam, Afghanistan and Iraq and, most recently, the ongoing wars in Ukraine and Gaza.
In the essay, Maritain defends France and Britain's decision to declare war against Germany following the invasion of Poland. To that end, he distinguishes between the remote origins of the war, for which all involved parties are to some degree culpable, and the immediate cause of the war, Germany's unjust invasion of Poland, followed by France and Britain's just retaliation on behalf of Poland. Maritain's historically significant and perenially relevant "Just War" is publically available at commonwealmagazine.org.