U.S. Bishops Oppose Preventive Strike Against Iraq

Letter Urges Bush to Pursue Options in Regard to Saddam

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WASHINGTON, D.C., SEPT. 18, 2002 (Zenit.org).- The head of the U.S. bishops’ conference wrote to U.S. President George W. Bush urging that alternatives be found to a preventive military attack on Iraq.

In his letter, Bishop Wilton Gregory, president of the episcopal conference, said a preventative attack would not be in keeping with the required moral exigencies.

The letter, dated Sept. 13, was written at the request of the bishops’ Administrative Committee, which met a week earlier.

In his letter, Bishop Gregory analyzes in the light of moral principles the possibility of a U.S. military operation to oust Saddam Hussein. The analysis is based on criteria in No. 2309 of the Catechism of the Catholic Church.

According to these principles, the “just war,” or rather the right of legitimate defense, requires that there be a “just cause, right authority, probability of success, proportionality, and non-combatant immunity.”

In speaking of the “just cause,” Bishop Gregory asks: “Is there clear and adequate evidence of a direct connection between Iraq and the attacks of September 11th or clear and adequate evidence of an imminent attack of a grave nature?”

“Should not a distinction be made between efforts to change unacceptable behavior of a government and efforts to end that government’s existence?” the bishop asks.

In regard to the “right authority,” he believes that an operation of these characteristics could only be undertaken if it has “congressional and United Nations approval.”

“With the Holy See, we would be deeply skeptical about unilateral uses of military force, particularly given the troubling precedents involved,” Bishop Gregory explains.

Quoting the Catechism, the episcopate stresses that the use of force must have “serious prospects of success” and “must not produce evils and disorders graver than the evil to be eliminated.”

“War against Iraq could have unpredictable consequences not only for Iraq but for peace and stability elsewhere in the Middle East,” Bishop Gregory emphasizes. “Would preventive or pre-emptive force succeed in thwarting serious threats or, instead, provoke the very kind of attacks that it is intended to prevent?”

“How would another war in Iraq impact on the civilian population, in the short- and long-term? How many more innocent people would suffer and die, or be left without homes, without basic necessities, without work?” he adds.

“Would war against Iraq detract from our responsibility to help build a just and stable order in Afghanistan and undermine the broader coalition against terrorism?” the prelate continues.

After acknowledging that armed conflicts continue to be a serious danger today for civilian populations, the bishop encourages President Bush to continue in his efforts to build broad international support for a new, more constructive and effective approach to press the Iraqi government to live up to its international obligations.

“We respectfully urge you to step back from the brink of war and help lead the world to act together to fashion an effective global response to Iraq’s threats that conforms with traditional moral limits on the use of military force,” Bishop Gregory concludes.

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