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The opposition of the churches to war

Here at CathNews we have been endeavouring to bring you a summary of the position being taken by the Catholic and other churches to the fight against terrorism and the calls for a war against Iraq. The latest issue of Sojourners magazine carries an indepth article which endeavours to provide a comprehensive understanding of the stance being adopted across a broad coalition of religious leaders in the United States.

Nearly all the statements [from religious leaders] have two things in common: a just-war assessment that finds the Bush-Blair approach to war morally questionable at virtually every turn and a realistic, sharply critical assessment of the Saddam Hussein regime. The joint U.S.-U.K. statement argues: "Let there be no mistake: We regard Saddam Hussein and his regime in Iraq as a real threat to his own people, neighboring countries, and to the world. His previous use and continued development of weapons of mass destruction is of great concern to us." The statement from the North Atlantic members of the WCC was equally sharp: "We believe that the Iraqi government has a duty to stop its internal repression, to end its threats to peace, to abandon its efforts to develop weapons of mass destruction, and to respect the legitimate role of the United Nations in ensuring that it does so."

Despite administration efforts to make the link between the "war on terrorism," the military action in Afghanistan, and the proposed war against Iraq, the U.S. Catholic bishops, at their November meeting, said that they "continue to find it difficult to justify the resort to war against Iraq, lacking clear and adequate evidence of an imminent attack of a grave nature." The bishops continued: "[W]e fear that resort to war...would not meet the strict conditions in Catholic teaching for overriding the strong presumption against the use of military force ... We are deeply concerned about recent proposals to expand dramatically traditional limits on just cause to include preventive uses of military force to overthrow threatening regimes or to deal with weapons of mass destruction."

The administration does have some supporters in the religious community. The earliest, and biggest, supporter of a pre-emptive and, if necessary, unilateral strike against Iraq has been Richard Land, president of the Southern Baptist Convention's Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission, who put together a supportive letter to Bush with his spin on just war theory. Endorsers of the letter included Prison Fellowship's Chuck Colson; Campus Crusade's Bill Bright; and D. James Kennedy, head of Coral Ridge Media Ministries. Land argues a pre-emptive strike against Saddam is a defensive "just cause" because of the Iraqi leader's actions of a decade ago.


3 Jan 2003