Had Ronald Reagan taken the peacenik advice of the U.S. bishops during the Cold War, the Soviet Communists would have won it. Undaunted, the bishops continue to offer advice to U.S. leaders on defense policy. American bishops who can’t protect their own church are confident that they know how to protect America. Passivity in the face of evil has worked so well for them that they are recommending it as a policy to President George Bush.
In their “Statement on Iraq,” the bishops who couldn’t take preemptive action against molesters in their midst fret about preemptive action against Saddam Hussein. They want Bush to step back from the “brink of war.” They “find it difficult to justify the resort to war against Iraq, lacking clear and adequate evidence of an imminent attack of a grave nature.”
This sounds about as prudent as reassigning molesters until lawsuits threatening the church’s reputation and finances emerge. One wonders what would meet the evidentiary bar of the American bishops, given that clear and adequate evidence of an imminent attack of a grave nature on their own church, presented to them for decades by lay people, never impressed them very much.
The American bishops “fear that resort to war, under present circumstances and in light of current public information, would not meet the strict conditions in Catholic teaching for overriding the strong presumption against the use of military force.” It is safe to say that George Bush has a better handle on Catholic just war teaching than the American Catholic bishops. Their presentation of that teaching — which leans heavily toward pacifism, a position the Catholic Church has never taken — loses all credibility when they lapse into babble about the United Nations and the international community. They say “if recourse to force were deemed necessary, this should take place within the framework of the United Nations.” Here we have American Catholic bishops entrusting the security of their nation to one of the most anti-Catholic organizations in the world.
Where in Catholic just war teaching does it say a nation can only defend itself if an artificial body of secularists say so? The worldly logic of the American bishops’ statement on Iraq bears more resemblance to the editorial page of the New York Times than to the just war thinking of Augustine or Thomas Aquinas.
“We have no illusions about the behavior or intentions of the Iraqi government,” they say. “The Iraqi leadership must cease its internal repression, end its threats to its neighbors, stop any support for terrorism, abandon its efforts to develop weapons of mass destruction, and destroy all such existing weapons.” No illusions? The bishops are laboring under the illusion that Saddam Hussein will make these changes without U.S. military action. They cling to the illusion that an “effective global response” consisting of treaties without teeth can contain a lunatic for whom the Gulf War never ended and for whom treaties are just instruments of further aggression.
To address the problem of weapons of mass destruction, the American bishops recommend more “non-proliferation measures.” Boy, that should work. Apparently Hussein hasn’t violated enough of them; he just hasn’t seen one he likes yet. The bishops support more “controls,” more international “conventions,” more “negotiations,” in short all of the time-buying “alternatives to war” that guarantee Hussein will fight a big one against us.
The American bishops can’t solve their own problems, but that won’t stop them from solving the world’s. They can worry that Bush’s “zero-tolerance” policy against Hussein threatens the children of Iraq now that the press has begun to forget about their lack of one for the children of America.
Would that they fought for the integrity of the Catholic faith with the same level of passion George Bush fights for America.