Bishop del Hoyo López on the Iraqi Crisis

To Exhaust All Options to War «Is Prudent, Just and Necessary»

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MADRID, Spain, MARCH 10, 2003 ( Bishop Ramón del Hoyo López of Cuenca, Spain, believes it is still possible to avoid war in Iraq.

Despite the U.S. military buildup in the Persian Gulf, he says, «steps toward peace are being taken at all levels, and prayers are rising from all corners of the earth.»

Q: Iraq has long-distance missiles and a variety of chemical weapons. Does this make a preventive war morally licit?

Bishop del Hoyo López: In my opinion, the war is not inevitable, and passing judgment on intentions is not sufficient ground to declare it. Truth, justice, and tested knowledge of human freedom are required.

Under the epigraph «the defense of peace,» the Catechism of the Catholic Church points out the strict conditions of legitimate defense — through military force — for its moral legitimacy. A decision on these conditions belongs, in any case, to those who are responsible for the common good.

I think that international organizations should safeguard peace, being above it all, even in the present situation, and I raise my banner in favor of the poor who will suffer more than anyone else the consequences of a war. Their cries of suffering also beseech our «preventive conscience.»

Q: If it is not licit, how can Saddam Hussein be stopped from using that armament while respecting the limits of morality?

Bishop del Hoyo López: Through compliance with international law and justice, through respect for life and solidarity, through the loyal dialogue of effective diplomacy in view of world security, through truth and not hypothesis.

Will Saddam Hussein understand these basic principles? How can he be made to understand? Steps are being taken for this at all levels, and prayers are rising from all corners of the earth. Why not have hope?

Q: Is it naive to ask for more time «to exhaust all possibilities to avoid the war»? Does this not give Saddam time to prepare?

Bishop del Hoyo López: Far from saying it is «naive» to exhaust all possibilities to avoid the war, I think it is prudent, just and necessary.

We would all be guilty of indifference at times like this, because war never favors the good of the human community and, in the long run, always destroys. What world peace needs is the union of forces of all states against terrorist barbarism.

Q: Almost all condemnations have been directed primarily at George Bush. However, the one who has really caused the problem is Saddam Hussein. Isn’t he the one who endangers international stability with his patent warmongering?

Bishop del Hoyo López: A poorly healed wound ends up by opening again. Let’s seek effective and profound remedies. Mechanisms and phases of dialogue must precede everything at all levels. The use of force is the last recourse, if it proves necessary for the international common good.

Such force must be used by the United Nations respecting all the conditions and cautions of its charter and the principles of the Catechism of the Catholic Church, which I make my own.

Sept. 11 and terrorism in general weigh heavily on everyone’s conscience, more so on that of the citizens of the United States of North America, overwhelmed by unjust fear at this time. No one is unaware of this.

But given my Christian culture, I do not lean on the «lex talionis» [law of retaliation], but on that of love, dialogue and forgiveness while recognizing that legitimate defense is not only a right but a duty in extreme and concrete cases.

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