WASHINGTON (November 15, 2001) -- Resolve, restraint and a long-term focus on broader issues of justice and peace must mark the international campaign against terrorism, according to a broad pastoral message approved today by the nation's Catholic bishops.
While the United States has a "moral right and a grave obligation" to defend the common good against mass terrorism, it must also actively seek to resolve political, economic, and cultural injustices exploited by terrorists, the bishops said in a "special message" titled A Pastoral Message: Living with Faith and Hope After September 11.
The bishops approved the statement on the last day of the semi-annual meeting of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops.
The statement strongly condemns the religious justification claimed by the terrorists for the attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon and asserts that the teachings of the world's religions clearly counter that notion.
"It is wrong to use religion as a cover for political, economic or ideological causes," the bishops state. "Whatever the motivation, there can be no religious or moral justification for what happened on September 11. People of all faiths must be united in the conviction that terrorism in the name of religion profanes religion."
The statement explicitly endorses efforts to hold accountable those responsible for the September 11 attacks. It goes on to say, however, that "how the common good is defended and
peace is restored is a critical moral issue. While military action may be necessary, it is by no means sufficient to deal with this terrorist threat." The bishops urge a "wide range of non-military measures" be employed.
"We acknowledge, however, the right and duty of a nation and the international community to use military force if necessary to defend the common good by protecting the innocent against mass terrorism," the bishops state.
While the use of military force may be necessary, they are equally clear in asserting that "every military response must be in accord with sound moral principles, notably such norms of the just war tradition as non-combatant immunity, proportionality, right intention and probability of success."
They also acknowledge that even those who subscribe to the just war tradition may differ in how its principles are applied.
Pursuing peace and justice in the aftermath of September 11th, however, involves more than bringing the organizers of the terrorist attacks to justice, according to the bishops.
"Our nation must join with others in addressing policies and problems that provide fertile ground in which terrorism can thrive," the bishop write. "No injustice legitimizes the horror we have experienced. But a more just world will be a more peaceful world. There will still be people of hate and violence, but they will have fewer allies, supporters and resources to commit their heinous acts."
The bishops call the United States to work for a more just international political, social and economic order which brings the benefits of globalization to all, especially the world's poorest.
"In a world where one-fifth of the population survives on less than $1 per day, where some twenty countries are involved in major armed conflict, and where poverty, corruption, and repressive regimes bring untold suffering to millions of people, we simply cannot remain indifferent," the bishops write.
The ongoing conflicts among Israelis and Palestinians, and the 18-year civil war in Sudan are examples of places where injustice has led to insecurity and violence and which "take on added urgency" in the aftermath of September 11, according to the bishops. Likewise, the 10-year old economic embargo against Iraq has create deep human suffering, and the bishops called for its end.
While the U.S. government is called to a more constructive engagement in resolving situations that breed terrorism, individuals as well are called by the bishops to concrete actions which will contribute to a more just world. Specifically, people of good will are called to prayer and fasting, teaching the principles of the Church's just war tradition, dialogue with other faiths, witness to mutual respect and human dignity, and service to those in need, solidarity with others in the world who live in terror.
"Above all, we need to turn to God and to one another in hope," the bishops state. "For believers, hope is not a matter of optimism, but a source for strength and action in demanding times. For peacemakers, hope is the indispensable virtue."