While I was plugging away at this very influential book, I noticed Book I, chapter 21, entitled 'of the cases in which we may put men to death without incurring the guilt of murder'. This must be the passage. It follows a discussion of suicides who are rape victims. Augustine, very generously, says that if a violated woman commits suicide "who that has any human feeling would refuse to forgive them" but he did not encourage women to do so since the stain for the violation rests on the abuser not the victim. Pity more people didn't pay attention to this part of Augustine. I almost feel like I might grow to like him but there is still a whole lot of book left in which he can annoy me so I won't be hasty about that.
Book I, chapter 21 states there are two exceptions to that prohibition - 'thou shalt not kill' - and those exceptions are made by divine authority justified by a general law or by a special commission. The special commission makes the person who kills 'a sword in the hand of the person who uses him' and not morally responsible for the death. So then, would he say the sin for all those deaths in the Crusades would then be laid upon the popes who called for them? Interesting thought. He went on to say that "those who have waged war in obedience to the divine command, or in conformity with His laws have represented in their persons the public justice or the wisdom of government, and in this capacity have put to death wicked men; such person have by no means violated the commandment, "Thou shalt not kill".
I know, huh?
First off - 'wisdom of government' is an oxymoron. Is there such a thing? 'Divine command' - do we really know what God wants? The pope is God's representative on earth but many, many popes have been such deeply flawed individuals that one could question if they speak for God at all. God himself is silent on this point. Augustine did not point out what laws this war is in conformity to. There are wars in the Old Testament and it seems at times these wars are waged with God's permission or even command but it does not appear to be explicitly so, not that I know the Bible well enough to say this for certain. He did not define what he meant by 'wicked men'; if we are talking pedophiles, you won't get any argument from me.
He gave three examples of killing that were directly ordered by God - the command given to Abraham to slay Isaac, Jephthah who killed his own daughter because he swore to sacrifice the first thing he met if he was victorious in war, and Samson who had been given secret instructions to pull down the building and crush his enemies. So, we could give him that. If God appears and tells you that you have to do this thing, then you better do it but the question remains - does the Pope then have the right to issue commands like this on God's behalf? I think not and, in Augustine's time, the office of the Bishop of Rome was still evolving and very different from what it is today so he did not comment on what the Pope may do in this case.
I am using the Marcus Dods translation, which looks to be out of copyright at the moment. yay.