Catholic bishops plan statement opposing U.S. invasion of Iraq
By John Rivera
SunSpot.net - November 13, 2002:
WASHINGTON - U.S. bishops moved yesterday toward opposing an American invasion of Iraq, holding that a unilateral attack is not justified under the Roman Catholic church's "just war" doctrine.
The decision by the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops to take an antiwar stand came spontaneously, as the church leaders prepared to vote today on their revised sexual-abuse policy and stances on immigration and poverty.
Cardinal Bernard Law of Boston, chairman of the bishops' committee drafting the statement, said it would apply the church's views on "just wars" to the prospect of unprovoked military action against Iraq.
Catholic just-war doctrine generally opposes violence but says it can be justified if used to overcome a greater moral evil. A just war must also provide immunity for noncombatants, have a probability of success and use means proportional to the good end desired.
Law said the document will reflect the will of his committee, but he also voiced concern about what would happen if Saddam Hussein were deposed. If a military action is launched, he asked, "and the war were to be won, then what?"
The bishops backed military action by the United States and its allies in Afghanistan last November, although that support was nuanced. "While military action may be necessary, it is by no means sufficient to deal with the terrorist threat," the bishops' statement said. It called for ""a wide range of non-military measures" to combat terrorism.
Bishop Wilton D. Gregory of Belleville, Ill., president of the bishops' conference, has expressed reservations about an invasion of Iraq. In a letter to President Bush in September, Gregory questioned the morality of a pre-emptive U.S. military move to overthrow Hussein's government.
At least one bishop said yesterday that he wished the group would go further. "We're going to end up with a statement based on just-war theology," said Bishop Thomas J. Gumbleton of Detroit. "I would want a condemnation of war, period."
During the second day of their four-day meeting yesterday, the bishops approved a statement repeating their dismay over the Roe vs. Wade Supreme Court decision that legalized abortion 29 years ago.
They are scheduled to vote on revisions to their sexual abuse policy today, along with major statements on immigration and poverty.
As advocates for sex-abuse victims made a last-ditch effort to pressure bishops into toughening their policy on ousting molesters from the clergy, a group of Catholic activists released an Internet database yesterday listing the names of 573 U.S. priests who have faced public accusations of child sex abuse since 1996.
The list at www.survivors.org was assembled by 10 Boston-area Catholic organizations operating as a group called Survivors First. The names were drawn from U.S. newspaper articles and, in some cases, court documents.
"I know as a parent I can't trust the bishops," said Paul Baier, a software entrepreneur who helped compile the list. The group's tally exceeds the widespread estimate of more than 300 priests removed this year over abuse allegations, many of them more than a decade old.
Yesterday afternoon, meanwhile, another protest at the bishops' meeting ended in arrests. Three Catholic members of Soulforce, an ecumenical gay-rights group, were handcuffed and removed from the lobby of the hotel where the bishops are meeting.
Kara Speltz of Oakland, Calif., Ken Einhaus of Arlington, Va., and Mike Perez of Seattle, Wash., had knelt in the lobby to protest being denied communion Monday night during the bishops' Mass at the Shrine of the Immaculate Conception.
Susan Gibbs, a spokeswoman for the Archdiocese of Washington, blamed the incident on a misunderstanding. She said the three had been denied communion because church officials had been warned in past years that gay activists would try to turn the communion into a protest of the church's teachings on homosexuality. The three said they were not wearing clothing or paraphernalia at the Mass that identified them as protesters.
"They were not present at your Mass to protest your anti-gay teachings and actions, but to have their tired spirits fed," wrote the Rev. Mel White, executive director of Soulforce, in a letter yesterday to Gregory, the bishops' president. "They came in search of comfort and found rejection and humiliation instead."