War Would Be Unjustified, Says U.S. Bishop

Warns of Troubling Moral Precedents

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WASHINGTON, D.C., FEB. 27, 2003 (Zenit.org).- The president of the U.S. bishops’ conference says it is hard to justify a war against Iraq, given the lack of clear evidence linking Baghdad to an imminent and grave attack or the Sept. 11 attacks.

In a statement published Wednesday, Bishop Wilton Gregory reiterated some of the American bishops’ reservations about a possible U.S.-led attack against the Saddam Hussein regime.

«This is a time to reaffirm and raise again the serious ethical questions and concerns our conference has expressed in a letter to President Bush last September and in a major statement of the full body of bishops last November,» Bishop Gregory wrote.

«We have no illusions about the behavior and intentions of, or dangers posed by, the Iraqi government,» he said. «We join with Pope John Paul II in insisting that Iraq make ‘concrete commitments’ to meet the legitimate demands of the international community and to avoid war.»

He continued: «Our bishops’ conference continues to question the moral legitimacy of any pre-emptive, unilateral use of military force to overthrow the government of Iraq.»

«To permit pre-emptive or preventive uses of military force to overthrow threatening or hostile regimes would create deeply troubling moral and legal precedents,» the bishop added. «Based on the facts that are known, it is difficult to justify resort to war against Iraq, lacking clear and adequate evidence of an imminent attack of a grave nature or Iraq’s involvement in the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11. With the Holy See and many religious leaders throughout the world, we believe that resort to war would not meet the strict conditions in Catholic teaching for the use of military force.»

Bishop Gregory continued: «In our judgment, resort to war in this case should have broad international support. As crucial decisions draw near, we join the Holy See in once again urging all leaders to step back from the brink of war and to continue to work through the United Nations to contain, deter and disarm Iraq.»

«If there is armed conflict,» he said, «we must be prepared for all of its implications and its aftermath. An already long-suffering Iraqi population could face terrible new burdens, and a region already full of conflict and refugees could see more conflict and many more refugees, with ethnic and religious minorities particularly vulnerable.

«A postwar Iraq would require a long-term commitment to reconstruction, humanitarian and refugee assistance, and establishment of a stable, democratic government at a time when the U.S. federal budget is overwhelmed by increased defense spending and the costs of war.»

«As pastors and teachers, we understand that there are no easy answers,» Bishop Gregory observed. «People of good will may differ on how traditional norms apply in this situation.»

He added: "Our hearts and prayers go out especially to those who may bear the burden of these terrible choices — the men and women of our armed forces and their families, the people of Iraq, and the leaders of our nation and world who face momentous decisions of life and death, of war and peace.»

Near the conclusion, the bishop said: «At times like these, we turn to the Lord and ask for wisdom and courage. We Christians are called to be ‘sentinels of peace,’ the Holy Father reminds us. We join with him in urging Catholics to dedicate fasting on Ash Wednesday for ‘the conversion of hearts and the long-range vision of just decisions to resolve disputes with adequate and peaceful means.'»

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