As I prepare to stand trial in Albuquerque on Sept. 6th for our attempt a year ago to get a New Mexico Senator to speak against the Iraq war, I’m happy to see that a new organization of Catholics opposed to the Iraq war has formed. On July 12th, Catholics United, a nonpartisan organization, launched “Catholics for an End to the War in Iraq” to encourage U.S. Catholics to advocate for diplomacy, redevelopment and a “responsible withdrawal” of U.S. troops from Iraq.
What a positive step forward and hopeful sign. Of course, every Catholic in the U.S. should be actively opposed to this evil war, beginning with every priest and bishop. Alas, thousands of priests and bishops support the war, and continue to support it, as I frequently hear as I travel the country. But Pope Benedict has repeatedly condemned the war. On May 2, 2003, he said, “There were not sufficient reasons to unleash a war against Iraq. To say nothing of the fact that, given the new weapons that make possible destruction that go beyond the combatant groups, today we should be asking ourselves if it is still licit to admit the very existence of a ‘just war.’” Recently, he called upon the nations of the world to end these “useless slaughters.”
Then, on June 23, 2007, in an historic letter, fourteen Catholic members of Congress, including my great friend Dennis Kucinich, wrote an open letter to the U.S. Catholic Bishops conference, asking them to help Congress end the war in Iraq. In a letter sent to Bishop William S. Skylstad, President of the USCCB and Bishop Thomas Wenski, International Justice and Peace Committee Chair, these members of Congress asked for a meeting with representatives of the USCCB to discuss ways that Congressional Members and the bishops could work together to mobilize public action to end the war.
“Throughout our nation’s history, Catholics have been at the forefront of the fight for social justice,” said Congressman Tim Ryan. “We are proud to see that the USCCB feels as strongly on this issue as we do and we are prepared to work closely with them to reach out to fellow members of the faith.”
“As Catholic Members of Congress, we stand in unison with the Catholic Church in opposition to the War in Iraq . Yet to attain the ideal of peace, we must not only speak the words, we must take action and that is why we are reaching out to the U.S Conference of Catholic Bishops to work with them to bring an end to the War in Iraq,” said Congresswoman DeLauro.
“We write today to urge you to help mobilize Catholic opinion on this, one of the most critical issues of our time. We have taken great comfort in the prophetic words of many Catholic leaders, relied on them for inspiration during our deliberations, and welcomed them in helping shape policy. If we understand the Catholic tradition correctly, thoughtful Church leaders around the world do not believe that the war in Iraq meets the strict conditions for a just war or the high moral standards for overriding the presumption against the use of force. We agree and seek an end to this injustice.”
“Our concerns are rooted in both the political realm and in our faith and are manifest in our efforts to enact legislation that will bring an end to this war Pope John Paul II framed the moral question well when he said: “When, as in Iraq in these days, war threatens the fate of humanity, it is even more urgent to proclaim with a strong and decisive voice that peace is the only path for building a society which is more just and marked by solidarity. Violence and weapons can never resolve the problems of humanity.”
“Throughout our nation’s history Catholics have been at the forefront of the fight for social justice. Now, at another critical moment, we respectfully urge the USCCB to join with us in mobilizing support for Congress’ efforts to end the war.”
The new campaign calls upon political leaders to “bring together Iraq’s warring factions in a multiparty conference that involves neighboring countries in the peace process” and to “provide funding and other support for reconstruction to be done by Iraqis in ways that benefit Iraqis,” according to the new website: www.catholicsforanend.org. It also seeks the withdrawal of U.S. combat troops from Iraq and asks that the U.S. not have a long-term presence in Iraq. Organizers invite Catholics to go online and sign the petition demanding these goals be met. Pax Christi and Network have thrown in their support for this project.
Catholics account for one in four voters nationwide, and the war in Iraq now ranks as the single most pressing concern for Catholic voters, according to a recent poll. “By joining the campaign, Catholics now have a unique opportunity to send a clear message to our leaders: our faith community demands immediate action on this issue, and will no longer tolerate an open-ended commitment in Iraq.”
Organizers hope to have 20,000 signatures by September 1st, when they will deliver the petition to members of Congress. Sign up now, and let’s show Congress that Catholics around the U.S. oppose this immoral, useless, deadly, evil war on Iraq.