ALTHOUGH POPE BENEDICT XVI and his predecessor, John Paul II, have been strong opponents of the current US-started war in Iraq, some Catholics refuse to even listen. In what "Catholic theologian" Michael Novak self-righteously proclaimed in the National Review to be the "low point" of Benedict's 2007 Easter message, the Pope said that, "nothing positive comes from Iraq, torn apart by continual slaughter as the civil population flees."
I researched that statement and made an interesting discovery which shows the unfortunate divide among Catholics today regarding the war in Iraq. On the forums of popular war-loving Catholic talk-show host Sean Hannity's website, I found a thread discussing the Pope's aforementioned statement on Iraq, and I found a wide range of opinion. Here are some examples.
Why does the Pope hate the troops?
Why does the pope speak out against
the effort in Iraq when he can't even effectively speak for his own Church?
He sees the killing of anyone as a bad thing, no matter how bad that
He must read the NY Times.
Aside from the profoundly stupid claim that the Pope is an anti-American, chai-drinking, NY-Times reading liberal pacifist, I found one comment that quite interested me and perhaps sums up the situation felt among war-supporting Catholics and the Pope:
It has always amazed me how selective some people are when it comes to theirIn order to see a blatant example of such behavior, we must look no farther than Richard John Neuhaus, editor of the magazine First Things, and ironically, a Catholic priest. This is what he had to say last year regarding the Pope's easter message:
religion. The Pope --- the spokesman for his religion --- is anti-death
penality, anti-Iraq war, etc... and yet so many "religious" Americans run around
ignoring him. I don't get it. When the Pope condemns abortion or gay marriage or
another right-wing bugbear, he is the Vicar of Christ on earth.When he questions
capital punishment or the Iraq War, hey, it's just one guy's opinion.
In the context of his Urbi et Orbi address on Easter Sunday, Pope Benedict
observed that “nothing positive comes from Iraq, torn apart by continual
slaughter as the civil population flees.”
I ask you to carefully notice how Neuhaus describes the Pope's statement as being "In the context of his Urbi et Orbi address." He follows up this dismissal of the Pope when he proclaims that:
Admittedly, it is galling when Catholics and others who are usually blithely
indifferent to church teaching seize upon a papal opinion with which they agree
and, suddenly becoming hyper-infallibilists, elevate it to dogmatic status.
Neuhaus would be more effective if he did not label all those against those against this war as "blithely indifferent to church teaching." Whether the Pope would count as such a person, Neuhaus does not make clear. Naturally he does not mention his own indifference to Church teaching in supporting an unjust "pre-emptive" war, which the Pope has said is mentioned nowhere in the Catechism of the Catholic Church. He does, however, go off into rambling, with this unique opinion:
traditional just-war doctrine adequately provides for the use of military force
in the face of a clear and present threat of aggression. Such a use of force is
more accurately described as defensive rather than preemptive, and it is worth
keeping in mind that in 2003 all the countries with developed intelligence
services agreed that Saddam Hussein had or was quickly developing weapons of
mass destruction that he intended to use in aggressive war.
Again, Neuhaus does not explain. If "all the countries with developed intelligence services agreed that Saddam Hussein had or was quickly developing weapons of mass destruction that he intended to use in aggressive war," then why was the U.S. the only country to commit any sizable number of troops?
In 2003, Iraq was a nation that had been crippled under 12 years of U.S.-sponsored sanctions, which helped cause some of the highest unemployment and child mortality rates in the world, a situation of justice which Fr. Neuhaus never deemed worthy to comment on. He says that Iraq was a "clear and present threat of aggression," although it had never threatened the United States in any way.
"Catholic theologian" Michael Novak has gone a step further in his support for the Iraq war, arguing to no avail at the Vatican in 2002 that "A limited and carefully conducted war to bring about a regime change in Iraq is, as a last resort, morally obligatory." Novak claimed that Iraqi President Saddam Hussein had "disrupted international order by refusing to disarm and that Iraqi weapons risked falling into the hands of a new breed of international terrorists eager to strike countries around the world with no advance warning."
As was proven by the C.I.A., Saddam Hussein had destroyed his nuclear weapons a dozen years earlier, and the subsequent war in 2003 turned out be anything but "limited" or "carefully conducted," as evidenced by arrogant and vain conduct by Iraq "administrator L. Paul Bremer, which is a totally different story.
Novak's credibility in his Iraq war argument to the Vatican was perhaps under-mined by his employment at the American Enterprise Institute, a pro-war think-tank funded by oil companies, some of whom began advertising in the Houston Chronicle for employees to work in Iraq even before the war began, which brings to mind the statement by Iraq war architect Paul Wolfowitz that "we just had no choice in Iraq. The country swims on a sea of oil."
After the Vatican listened to Novak's arguments for war, Pope John Paul II, sent a special envoy to the White House, although President Bush refused to see him. Those who claim that the current Pope's opposition to the war is nothing but mere "opinion," may be interested to know that Benedict has repeated many times over the years that "The concept of a 'preventive war' does not appear in the Catechism of the Catholic Church."
Pope John Paul II called this war "a defeat for Humanity" which could not be morally or legally justified, a point which Benedict XVI has constantly re-iterated. The Catechism of the Catholic Church is the compendium of official Church teaching, and clearly does not contain any approval of "pre-emptive war," the kind which "Catholic theologian" Michael Novak claimed to be "morally obligatory."
Pointless bloodshed for non-existent reasons against a nation that never threatened us is the situation which the U.S. was led into with disastrous results. We now have more troops in Iraq than ever, and hundreds of innocent citizens die every week with no end in sight, and no percievable plan or purpose.
The popes were right. War creates hell on earth, such as we are now seeing in Iraq. I mentioned before that the National Review, so lost in their make-believe fantasy world of cheerleading for unjust aggression, called the Pope's call for peace a "low point," although any sane, clear-thinking Catholic can easily see otherwise.
ADDENDUM: For those who haven't seen it, Pope Benedict XVI, in his Palm Sunday address this year, denounced the five-year Iraq war and passionately appealed for peace in Iraq (and also indirectly conveyed his wish that the occupying forces withdraw) :
Enough of the killings, enough of violence, enough of hatred in Iraq! At
the same time, I raise an appeal to the Iraqi people, who have borne for
five years the consequences of a war which has provoked such disorder in
their civic and social life: Beloved Iraqis, lift up your heads and be
yourselves the primary rebuilders of your national life!
If we continue to ignore the fervent desires of two successive popes that we end this war--- two remarkably wise and saintly men, I might add, whose unique prerogative it is to make such moral judgements---I'm afraid we do so at our own peril.