Last Updated: Friday - 09/24/2010
Week of November 19, 2007
U.S. bishops urge new directions in Iraq war, policy
Statement calls for an ethics of exit
By PATRICIA ZAPOR
Catholic News Service
The current situation in Iraq remains unacceptable and unsustainable," the U.S. bishops say in decrying the lack of new directions in their country's policy in that country.
The bishops also criticized some U.S. policy makers for failing "to recognize sufficiently the reality and failures in Iraq."
In a Nov. 13 statement, issued by Bishop William Skylstad of Spokane, Wash., president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, the bishops bemoaned the "political and partisan stalemate in Washington" that it is parallel to the "dangerous political stalemate" that blocks reconciliation in Iraq.
The bishops reiterated their insistence that the transition of U.S. forces out of Iraq should take into account moral issues, such as minimizing the loss of human life, addressing the humanitarian crisis in Iraq, the situation of refugees and the protection of human rights, especially religious freedom.
At their annual fall meeting, the bishops agreed Nov. 12 to have Skylstad issue a statement on their behalf, a common approach for the conference when dealing with urgent issues.
A statement from the conference as a whole would have required a more formal amendment and approval process not suited to quick turnaround during the meeting.
"As pastors, we have called for bipartisan action for almost two years," the document said. "Our country needs a new direction to reduce the war's deadly toll and to bring our people together to deal with the conflict's moral and human dimensions."
While not suggesting specific political, economic or military strategies or particular tactics, the bishops said in the statement that they wish to share the Church's moral tradition to help inform policy choices.
Church teaching on war and peace "offers hard questions, not easy answers," it said.
"Our nation must now focus more on the ethics of exit than on the ethics of intervention."
One section of the statement touches on "a neglected policy priority . . . the dire situation of refugees outside the country, internally displaced persons within Iraq, Christians and other vulnerable minorities."
Two million refugees
It notes that "a staggering two million refugees have fled Iraq; another two million Iraqis are internally displaced.
"The U.S. should immediately make more substantial commitments to Iraqi refugees by expanding missions, eliminating roadblocks to resettlement, and supporting countries in the region burdened with war-related refugee populations."
It said extensive aid should be provided to internally displaced persons and that the protection and promotion of human rights, especially religious freedom, remain critically important.
The statement also touched on military actions, in which "ethical norms require protecting civilians, using proportionate and discriminate force, rejecting torture and fighting terrorism with nonmilitary means and the legitimate use of force when necessary."
That is " morally essential," especially in the fight against terrorism, it said.
The effects of continued occupation of Iraq on military personnel, their families and the nation also should be considered as a moral issue, the statement said.
The human, medical, mental health and social costs of military action carry a moral obligation, as does the need to provide for conscientious objection, it said.
All Catholics and others were urged to pray for peace and those most affected by the war.
"We pray and hope that policymakers will begin to work together on a bipartisan basis to bring an end to this war and occupation at the earliest opportunity consistent with the limited goal of a responsible transition and the protection of human lives - Iraqi and American," the statement concluded.