||Letter from U.S. Catholic leaders to U.S.
February 4, 2003
The Honorable Jim Nicholson
Dear Ambassador Nicholson,
We have read a disturbing report that you have appointed a U.S. theologian to meet with representatives of the Holy See to outline the moral justification for the current preparation for war against Iraq and the eventual war that seems now to be inevitable. As you prepare for this meeting we, leaders of a significant number of Catholics in the U.S., would like to share with you our thoughts and concerns about the preparations for war and the proposed meeting between you and the theologian and the Holy See.
For months the Administration has been preparing for military action against Iraq. Beginning with threats against Iraq, the U.S. impelled the United Nations to enact a Security Council resolution requiring Iraq to destroy all weapons of mass destruction that the country is alleged to have. In the months since that resolution passed an international arms inspection team has been in Iraq investigating the potential development and stockpiling of weapons. However, they have found little to support the U.S. Administrations claim that Iraq poses the threat that the President and others would like us to believe.
During all this time, the Administration has continued to prepare for war, by deploying troops to the Middle East, conducting war games in the U.S., resuming the use of live ammunition target practice in Vieques, lobbying the international community for support, and changing the message so that it remains unclear what the real purpose of any U.S. military action would be. While the purpose and goals of the Administration remain unclear, what has been very clear is the message of millions of people in the U.S. and around the world, especially the Catholic community in the U.S. that we represent.
As leaders of Catholic organizations, religious orders, theologians, educators, and pastoral workers, we have dialogued and reflected on the current situation in light of our rich tradition of Catholic Social Teaching and our practical experiences. Our reflection, guided also by the clear and consistent statements from our Church leaders, including Pope John Paul II, have led us to conclude that any military action against Iraq at this time is not morally justifiable. There remain many avenues of peaceful, diplomatic alternatives that have not been explored. The international community does not support a planned war. A clear and imminent threat has not been proven. The use of preemptive strikes is not recognized by the international community as a legitimate use of the military against another nation, nor is it morally defensible. Now that the Administration has publicly stated that it will not rule out the use of nuclear weapons as a first strike strategy, we are even more convinced that this is not a war that is being planned with any concern for proportionality or concern for innocent life, nor does it respect the autonomy of the modern nation-state. In addition, the threat of several days of military strikes to destroy the infrastructure and demoralize the Iraqi people clearly violates our belief that every act of war directed to the indiscriminate destruction of whole cities or vast areas with their inhabitants is a crime against God and humanity, which merits firm and unequivocal condemnation (Catechism of the Catholic Church #2315).
Mr. Ambassador, our Church has spoken clearly and with an almost unanimous voice condemning this build up to war. Therefore, we are very concerned that you have selected one theologian to represent the U.S. Catholic communitys position on the morality of this war without any consultation with the recognized Catholic leaders in the U.S. who have helped many of us craft our clear and consistent message against the Administrations actions. In a country where we have a time honored and legally protected right to the separation of Church and State, the appointment of a theologian seems to us to violate that separation. In addition, we are concerned that this action could actually lead to a misrepresentation of the teachings of our Bishops, religious leaders, and theologians, who have worked in concert to educate the entire Catholic community in the United States.
We recognize that Catholic thought on this subject is not monolithic. There is a diversity of opinion, but it seems that with our Bishops and others in so close agreement, a pro-war voice does not represent the voice of U.S. Catholics on this issue.
On January 13, Pope John Paul spoke to the ambassadors of the world accredited to the Vatican. During that audience, which you attended, he said, No to war! War is not always inevitable. It is always a defeat for humanity. In addition, the U.S. Catholic Bishops, in a statement to the Catholics of U.S. 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. We agree with and support these statements, and we call on you to ensure that you will represent the full voice of the Catholic community when you meet with representatives of the Vatican. We urge you to open the meetings to others beyond your appointed theologian and Vatican representatives to ensure a balanced and well-informed dialogue on U.S. foreign policy.
You can be assured that through our individual contacts with the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, the Vatican, and among our colleagues in the U.S. we will continue to question the morality of this move to war. We will call on all people, not just our Catholic sisters and brothers, to use whatever means they have to raise their voices in opposition to war, and to seek paths of peace that will avert war and create new relationships built on justice and respect.
National Catholic Reporter, Posted February 4, 2003