Had the United States taken Pope John Paul II's advice before the Persian Gulf War, Saddam Hussein would still be in Kuwait. The Pope opposed the start of that war and now opposes the end of it. Before the Gulf War, he said that "war is an adventure with no return." Now he says "war is a defeat for humanity."
Why is the Pope equating war with injustice? None of his papal predecessors did. What he calls a defeat for humanity, past popes called an instrument of humanity. They never spoke of war as intrinsically evil but as a means of honor and justice in a world of wicked men who prey upon defenseless innocents.
Where has the Church's fighting spirit gone? Where is the Church militant?
The Catholic Church used to tell men to fight evil. Now it tells them to "dialogue" with it. The Church militant has become the Church pacifist.
Modern Catholic clerics prefer to coexist with evil than eradicate it. This dialogue-with-dictators formula for peace is holding the Church up to ridicule. By mingling dubious opinions with authoritative teachings, the Church undermines the force of those good teachings.
Church officials can't seem to tell the difference anymore between opinions and teachings. Their pacifist opinions are bleeding into Church teaching. They of course deny pacifism, but their pacifist equation of war with evil gives them away. Their opposition to this war is ultimately an opposition to any war, as one Vatican official revealed when he questioned whether war is ever "worthwhile." Cardinal Pio Laghi on Wednesday said the Church considers war "a defeat for our intelligence, our creativity and our firm conviction that peace is always possible."
Church officials describe this quasi-pacifism as a "development" of Church teaching. St. Thomas Aquinas would have called it a heresy.
Our Protestant President is showing greater fidelity to Catholic just war teaching than the modern Catholic Church. His common sense is a much more reliable guide than the ever-changing and increasingly flaky theological theory of the post-Vatican II Catholic Church.
While he speaks of Hussein as an "evildoer," Church officials speak of Hussein as a "sovereign" head of state. In the Gulf War, Rafael Bidawid, the head of the Catholic Church in Baghdad, actually called Saddam Hussein a "real gentleman."
The Pope thought, incredibly enough, that this real gentleman would leave Kuwait through "dialogue" and appeals to his "honor." The Pope was convinced that that relatively bloodless conflict would produce "certainly disastrous consequences." He repeatedly urged that "dialogue and negotiation prevail over the recourse to instruments of devastating and terrifying death." He in effect told George Bush Sr. that modern war is always wrong: "We cannot pretend that the use of arms, and especially of today's highly sophisticated weaponry, would not give rise, in addition to suffering and destruction, to new and perhaps worse injustice."
How many people in Kuwait agree with these comments today? That "sophisticated weaponry" liberated them and kept the death toll amazingly low.
It is also worth recalling that the Holy See opposed the United Nations' authorization of force in the Gulf War. How odd, then, to hear Cardinal Laghi say on Wednesday that a "decision regarding the use of military force can only be taken within the framework of the United Nations." Suddenly the Holy See recognizes the authority of the U.N., though usually it rightly notes that that anti-Catholic body lacks natural authority.
Holy See officials have said loudly that "preemption" is not in just war teaching (never mind that preemption is implied in self-defense). But they don't mind stretching just war criteria themselves. It now apparently includes U.N. approval, according to them. Under this "development," it is unjust to defend yourself if the U.N. tells you not to defend yourself.
But let's say the U.N. does authorize force against Iraq. Will the Holy See continue to sing the praises of the "vast patrimony of international law and institutions"? Or will it slink back to its anti-U.N. Gulf War opposition?
If the Holy See had maintained a prudent reserve about this war, it wouldn't have to play such silly games. America will not lose the war, but the Church will lose more credibility.
George Neumayr is a frequent contributor to The American Prowler.