Last Updated: Friday - 09/24/2010
Week of November 25, 2002
War on Iraq unjustified - U.S. bishops
By PATRICIA ZAPOR
Catholic News Service
The U.S. bishops Nov. 13 urged the United States to "step back from the brink of war," saying they "find it difficult to justify the resort to war against Iraq."
The bishops said they agree with the Holy See and bishops from the Middle East that resorting to war under current circumstances "would not meet the strict conditions in Catholic teaching for overriding the strong presumption against the use of military force."
The statement was approved after an hour-long debate by a vote of 228 to 14, with three abstentions. It prefaced its conclusions by explaining that the "grave choices about war and peace, about pursuing justice and security," are not only military and political choices but also moral ones involving matters of life and death.
"Traditional Christian teaching offers ethical principles and moral criteria that should guide these critical choices," it said.
Instead of primarily pursuing a course to war in Iraq, the bishops said, "it is vital that our nation persist in the very frustrating and difficult challenges of maintaining broad international support for constructive, effective and legitimate ways to contain and deter aggressive Iraqi actions and threats."
They said, "We have no illusions about the behaviour and intentions of the Iraqi government. The Iraqi leadership must cease its internal repression, end its threats to its neighbours, stop any support for terrorism, abandon its efforts to develop weapons of mass destruction and destroy all such existing weapons."
They said, they support "effective enforcement of the military embargo and maintenance of political sanctions." They called for more carefully focused economic sanctions "which do not threaten the lives of innocent Iraqi civilians."
However, they said, "based on the facts known to us, we continue to find it difficult to justify the resort to war against Iraq, lacking clear and adequate evidence of an imminent attack of a grave nature."
The bishops noted that the Catechism of the Catholic Church limits the choice to go to war to cases where "the damage inflicted by the aggressor on the nation or community of nations (is) lasting, grave and certain."
"A distinction should be made between efforts to change unacceptable behaviour of a government and efforts to end that government's existence," they said.