(CatholicCulture.Org) - Military intervention in Libya, in the judgment of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB), “appears to meet” the just-cause criterion of Catholic teaching on just war. The USCCB, however, cautioned that it has “refrained from making definitive judgments” in light of “many prudential decisions beyond our expertise.”THE CATHOLIC KNIGHT: The more the USCCB speaks on political matters, the more respect I lose for this bureaucratic body. So let me see if I understand this. In 2002-2003 a Republican president made the case for a just war against Iraq using virtually the same criteria as the current president used to justify his recent actions in Libya. In fact, I would dare say the Republican president made a much better case in 2002-2003 against Iraq, citing humanitarian reasons, evidence of ethnic cleansing, harboring terrorists, and making weapons of mass destruction. Furthermore, the Republican president made his case before Congress first, acquired congressional approval, gaining a UN Security Council approval in addition to the old one he already had, and acquiring a coalition of the willing, all while making his case to the American people. He did this all PRIOR to taking military action, giving the Iraqi dictator plenty of time to make amends by stepping down. He even offered an exit plan for the Iraqi dictator, promising to secure a safe place for him and his family outside the country. Yet in all of this the Republican president's actions were questioned and ultimately condemned by the USCCB as engaging in an unlawful war without just cause.
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Now let's fast forward to 2011. In this case we have a Democratic president who made a couple flip comments leading up to his bombing campaign of the Libyan dictator, saying something to the extent of "he's gotta go." He then began a US bombing campaign in Libya WITHOUT gaining congressional approval and BEFORE making his case to the American people. He gave the Libyan dictator little warning, and as far as we know he never offered an exit plan for the dictator and his family. Yes, this cruel dictator was attacking his own citizens who were rebelling against his cruel regime, but this is no different than the Iraqi dictator who did the EXACT SAME THING with just as much cruelty if not more so. However, when reviewing this case, the USCCB makes a statement saying that this may very well meet the criteria of a "just war."
WHAT A CROCK!
The USCCB is playing politics here. Apparently, according to the USCCB, the unprovoked bombing of another country is an unjust war when a Republican is in the Whitehouse, but when a Democrat is in the Whitehouse, it is likely a "just war" with good cause. GIVE ME A BREAK! How can I possibly take this ecclesiastical body seriously? How can anyone take it seriously?
The Catholic Knight would like to take this moment to remind his readers how ecclesiastical authority really works in the Catholic Church. First things first, the USCCB is not an authoritative Church body. It is not the same as the Vatican. It has no real authority of it's own. It is merely a coordinating body, permitted under canon law based on very restrictive criteria, with no ability to make it's legislation stick without having it first rubber-stamped by the Vatican. Individual American bishops are not required to follow the guidelines of the USCCB, and may at will, discard the USCCB's recommendations in their own dioceses. The purpose of the USCCB is to promote cooperation and coordination among American bishops, so that US Catholics can expect reasonable similarities in the way things are run from one diocese to another. That is all. The USCCB is not a "mini-Vatican." It never has been and it never will be. Real authority in the Catholic Church works like this. (1) Local priests answer to the local diocesan bishop. (2) The local diocesan bishop answers in part to the regional metropolitan archbishop, and directly to the pope and his prefects in the Vatican. (3) All bishops and archbishops answer directly to the pope and his prefects in the Vatican.
You will notice the USCCB does not factor into this threefold authority structure. That's because the USCCB is not a governing body. It is a coordinating body and nothing more. With a proper understanding of where the USCCB stands in relation to Church governance, we can begin to appreciate the full gravity of the statements it makes on political matters - which is zero gravity. The USCCB has no authority to make political statements and I dare say it has not the competence either.
Now lest my readers think I am taking political sides myself, I am not. I've had many years to reflect on the actions of George W. Bush, and I've decided that Pope John Paul II was right. The American led war against Iraq was unjust, just as the war against Serbia was unjust. So now in CONSISTENCY I say the American led war against Libya is unjust. It doesn't matter to me whether it is a Democrat or a Republican in the Whitehouse. If John McCain were the president bombing Libya right now I would say the same thing. The same goes for any other Republican presidential hopeful back in the 2008 election. My only regret is that it took me almost a decade to see the light on this. Sadly, it would appear the USCCB has not yet learned the same lesson. For my readers I'll outline the conditions of a "just war" below. It doesn't take much more than a third-grade education to understand that these criteria were not met in any of the recent wars conducted primarily by the United States in Serbia, Iraq and Libya...
Principles of the Just War
From the Catechism of the Catholic Church
From the Catechism of the Catholic Church
2309 The strict conditions for legitimate defense by military force require rigorous consideration. The gravity of such a decision makes it subject to rigorous conditions of moral legitimacy. At one and the same time:
- the damage inflicted by the aggressor on the nation or community of nations must be lasting, grave, and certain;
- all other means of putting an end to it must have been shown to be impractical or ineffective;
- there must be serious prospects of success;
- the use of arms must not produce evils and disorders graver than the evil to be eliminated. The power of modem means of destruction weighs very heavily in evaluating this condition.
These are the traditional elements enumerated in what is called the "just war" doctrine.
The evaluation of these conditions for moral legitimacy belongs to the prudential judgment of those who have responsibility for the common good.