WASHINGTON (July 19, 2007)—The U.S. bishops have asked to meet with Republican members of the House of Representatives to discuss a "responsible transition" to end the war in Iraq. The bishops also reiterated their call for members of Congress and the Administration to break the political stalemate in Washington and to pursue a bipartisan policy to end the war as soon as possible.
The request was outlined in a letter from Bishop Thomas G. Wenski of Orlando, Florida, chairman of the bishops' Committee on International Policy, to Rep. John A. Boehner (R/Ohio), House minority leader.
The letter followed a similar one in response to Rep. Tim Ryan (D/Ohio) and 13 other House Democrats who had sent a letter June 28 asking to meet on Iraq.
"Too many Iraqi and American lives have been lost. Too many Iraqi communities have been shattered. Too many civilians have been driven from their homes. The human and financial costs of the war are staggering," Bishop Wenski said.
"The current situation in Iraq is unacceptable and unsustainable, as is the policy and political stalemate among decision makers in Washington. Our Conference hopes to work with the Congress and the Administration to forge bipartisan policies on ways to bring about a responsible transition and an end to the war," he added.
He referred the congressman to several statements on Iraq found on their website at http://www.usccb.org/sdwp/international/iraq.shtml.
The bishops' International Policy Committee has been encouraging the Administration and members of both parties to forge a bipartisan consensus to address the situation in Iraq for some time. The Committee has met with prominent members of Congress and State Department officials to promote a "responsible transition" to end the war in Iraq. The recent letter to the House Democrats and the letter to Rep. Boehner and the Republicans are part of an effort to foster a bipartisan approach that breaks the political stalemate in Washington. The letter to Rep. Boehner follows.
Dear Mr. Boehner:
The Catholic Bishops of the United States are concerned for the dangerous and deteriorating situation in Iraq. Too many Iraqi and American lives have been lost. Too many Iraqi communities have been shattered. Too many civilians have been driven from their homes. The human and financial costs of the war are staggering. Representatives of our Conference would welcome an opportunity to meet with you and other policy makers to discuss ways to pursue the goal of a "responsible transition" to bring an end to the war in Iraq.
The current situation in Iraq is unacceptable and unsustainable, as is the policy and political stalemate among decision makers in Washington. Our Conference hopes to work with the Congress and the Administration to forge bipartisan policies on ways to bring about a responsible transition and an end to the war.
Prior to the war when too few members of either party in Congress opposed authorizing the use of force, our Conference of bishops, in solidarity with Pope John Paul II, repeatedly raised grave moral questions about military intervention in Iraq and the unpredictable and uncontrollable negative consequences of an invasion and occupation. Sadly many of the tragic consequences we and others had feared have come to pass.
In November 2006, our Conference expressed the hope that the report of the bipartisan Iraq Study Group would lead to the candid assessments and honest dialogue that our nation needs to find a responsible way to end U.S. military engagement in Iraq. We subsequently noted with satisfaction that the Iraq Study Group shared our goal of a "responsible transition." Although as bishops and pastors we have not taken positions on all of the detailed proposals in that Report, its broad outlines mirror the benchmarks and new approaches that our Conference has advocated in promoting a "responsible transition" with U.S. troops leaving "sooner rather than later."
U.S. military action in Iraq brought with it new moral responsibilities toward the Iraqi people. For more than a year and a half our Conference has called for a "responsible transition" and withdrawal in Iraq. In January 2006, our Conference stated: "Our nation's military forces should remain in Iraq only as long as their presence contributes to a responsible transition. Our nation should look for effective ways to end their deployment at the earliest opportunity consistent with this goal."
Our Conference has expressed particular concerns for Christians and other minority groups who have suffered in the aftermath of military action in Iraq along with the rest of the Iraqi population. In a special way, our nation must make provisions for refugees who have fled their native land in search of safety and security for their families.
In our most recent public statement this year, our Conference reminded policy makers that each course of action in Iraq ought to be evaluated in light of its moral and human consequences and the traditional principle of "probability of success." The moral measure of "probability of success" weighs more heavily with each passing month.
Our Conference is under no illusions regarding Iraq. None of the alternative courses of action are without consequences for human life and dignity. There is no path ahead that leads to an unambiguously good outcome for Iraq, our nation and the world. It was for this very reason that we raised serious moral questions regarding military intervention in Iraq in the first place. Nevertheless, our nation must have the moral courage to change course in Iraq and to break the policy and political stalemate in Washington so that we can walk a difficult path that does the most good and the least damage in human and moral terms.
Representatives of our Bishops' Conference will be in communication with your office to explore the possibility of meeting. In preparation for potential discussions, I have enclosed our Conference's three most recent public statements on Iraq. These and other public actions of our Conference both before and after the decision to invade Iraq can be found at this website:
http://www.usccb.org/sdwp/international/iraq.shtml. Our shared moral tradition can guide this effort and inform our dialogue with other leaders as we seek a way to bring about a morally responsible end to the war in Iraq.
Sincerely yours in Christ,
Most Reverend Thomas G. Wenski
Bishop of Orlando
Chairman, Committee on International Policy
United States Conference of Catholic Bishops