Catholic Congress members seek USCCB support to "end war in Iraq"
Fourteen Members of Congress sent a letter to the U.S. Conferenceof Catholic Bishops (USCCB), calling on the bishops to increase their involvement in efforts to end the war in Iraq. In the letter, which was sent to Bishop William S. Skylstad, President of the USCCB and Bishop Thomas Wenski, International Justice and Peace Committee Chair, the requested a meeting with representatives of the USCCB to discuss ways that Congressional Members and the clergy can work together to mobilize public action to end the war.
The Congress members wrote: "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."
A USCCB spokesperson said conference leaders were studying the letter but had no comment at this time. Sister Mary Ann Walsh, director of the USCCB media relations office, told The Hartford Courant the bishops "just received the letter," and noted "the bishops have voiced concern for the conflict in Iraq repeatedly since the war began and have repeatedly called for a responsible transition."
Commenting on the unusual appeal, Congressman Tim Ryan (D-Ohio) said, “Throughout our nation’s history, Catholics have been at the forefront of the fight for social justice. 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 Rosa DeLauro (D-CT).
The full text of the letter follows:
Most Reverend William S. Skylstad
Bishop of Spokane
President, United States Conference of Catholic Bishops
3211 Fourth Street, NE
Washington, DC 20017
Most Reverend Thomas Wenski
Bishop of Orlando
International Justice and Peace Committee Chair
United States Conference of Catholic Bishops
3211 Fourth Street, NE
Washington, DC 20017
As Catholic Members of Congress, we find ourselves increasingly disheartened with our country's presence in Iraq , with the manner in which the war is prosecuted, and with the many injustices that continue to occur there. We write today to urge you to help mobilize Catholic opinion on this, one of the most critical issues of our time. To that end, we respectfully request a meeting with representatives of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops to discuss ways in which we can work together in pursuit of our shared goal of ending the war in Iraq as soon as possible.
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 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 man.”
We recall with no small measure of sadness the failed efforts of His Eminence Pio Cardinal Laghi, sent in March 2003 as the Special Envoy of the Pope, to plead with President Bush for a renewed effort at negotiations before this war began, or simply for a delay in commencing hostilities because of the personal intervention of the Holy Father. Though treated politely, Laghi was rebuffed even as he provided the administration with valuable insights from the Iraqi bishops’ conference and Vatican staff in Iraq . Iraq and its people would be in a far different place today had President Bush heeded the advice of Cardinal Laghi and Pope John Paul II.
In our own education in the faith, we find the testimony of the Scriptures compelling, and although we have no illusions about the complexities of our current situation in Iraq , we have come to believe that peace cannot simply exist as an ideal – our efforts must be accompanied by actions as we embrace the teachings of peace and justice.
We have deliberated with great care, and our consciences calls us to act with conviction and compassion. 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.
Rep. Tim Ryan
Rep. Rosa DeLauro
Rep. Anna Eshoo
Rep. Marcy Kaptur
Rep. Jim Moran
Rep. Jose E. Serrano
Rep. James McGovern
Rep. William "Lacy" Clay
Rep. Hilda Solis
Rep. Bart Stupak
Rep. Joe Baca
Rep. Grace Napolitano
Rep. Dennis Kucinich
Rep. Charlie Wilson
cc: Dr. Stephen Colecchi, Director, USCCB International Justice and Peace Committee