WASHINGTON (November 13, 2002) -- Reiterating the principles of Catholic just war tradition, the nation's bishops meeting here today expressed "serious concerns and questions" about the rush to war with Iraq.
The bishops welcomed last week's vote of the United Nations Security Council requiring that Iraq comply with its commitments to disarm and the efforts of the U.S. government to secure the Security Council's action.
"Based on the facts that are known to us, we 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 state. "With the Holy See and bishops from the Middle East and around the world, we 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."
In issuing a cautionary statement, the bishops acknowledge that they have "no illusions about the behavior or intentions of the Iraqi government." They call on Iraq to adhere to its commitments to disarm and urge Iraq to "comply fully" with the UN Security Council resolution passed last week.
The bishops raise their concerns and questions within the context of five main principles of Catholic just war theory:
- Just cause. "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," they state.
- Legitimate authority. "In our judgment, decisions concerning possible war in Iraq require compliance with U.S. constitutional imperatives, broad consensus within our nation, and some form of international sanction. That is why the action by Congress and the UN Security Council are important."
- Probability of success and proportionality. The bishops raise concerns that a war against Iraq "could have unpredictable consequences not only for Iraq but for peace and stability elsewhere in the Middle East."
- Norms governing the conduct of war. Despite more sophisticated weaponry, the use of force in Iraq could result in "incalculable costs" for the civilian population. "In assessing whether 'collateral damage' is proportionate, the lives of Iraqi men, women, and children should be valued as we would the lives of members of our own family and citizens of our own country."