The Gospel According to the Washington Times
On this, the Feast of Saint Patrick — evangelist and patron saint of peaceful Ireland — the editors of The Washington Times have seen fit to run an editorial entitled "Catholic Doctrine and Saddam Hussein."
Is Hussein advocating birth control, as the American government has done around the globe? Is he promoting and subsidizing millions of abortions, as the US government has done? Is he teaching promiscuous and perverted sex to school children? That is not reported.
Is Hussein denying the doctrine of the Trinity? The immaculate conception? No.
Predictably, the Times has seen fit to editorialize on the notion of a "just war."
Sadly, the Times' editorial is on the level with a freshman's first paper in Philosophy 101.
The allegedly conservative Times, after quoting the Catechism of the Catholic Church, then goes on to argue that, pace the Pope and the Bishops, two American theologians — Michael Novak and George Weigel — are better interpreters of Church teaching than the Pope and the Bishops.
Thus, the Times relies for its opposition to the Pope and the Catholic Church upon "Mr. Weigel, who has written a biography of the pope…an internationally recognized scholar on matters involving the Catholic Church."
Can a rational person rely upon those who comment upon the Church as opposed to the Church when there is a debate about what the Church itself teaches?
Why, then, does the Times seek to have Catholics in the United States heed the words of two laymen instead of the successor to Saint Peter?
Because, the Times argues, Weigel and Novak have shown that "a war to liberate the Iraqi people from a cruel and vicious dictator like Saddam Hussein is in the best spirit of the catechism."
For an allegedly conservative paper to make such a claim is simply astounding. Forget the words on the paper — let's follow the "spirit" of the document.
Is this not how the United States was perverted and destroyed — while denying that any transformation had taken place — by the Supreme Court? Is this not the very "rule by the judiciary," if not rule by men (instead of laws) which is allegedly anathema to conservatives?
Worse, the Supreme Court is not infallible. On the other hand, the Roman Catholic Church teaches that on matters of: (1) faith; and (2) morals, it teaches infallibly — it is protected from error by God Himself. (Note: whether you agree with the Church on this point or not, that is, in fact, the teaching of the Church. And the editors of the Times appear blissfully unaware of the fact.)
The Times, sadly, is not to be deterred by the successor of Saint Peter.
Instead, citing Michael Novak, the Times argues that the Bush administration should decide whether war is justified because only the Bush administration has all the facts.
In which case, what is the value of democracy when war is in the air? Will the citizens of a democracy ever have all the facts, Mr. Novak?
Worse, it is painfully clear that the Bush administration has not been forthright, either in relying upon a forged research paper to make the case for war (as Colin Powell did in front of the United Nations) or in claiming that Hussein has gassed his own people — when the former CIA officer who investigated the atrocities blames the deaths on Iran — as battlefield casualties during the Iran-Iraq war.
Musn't mention those inconvenient versions of administration propaganda, it seems.
By the way, the express words of paragraphs 2307 through 2309 of the Catechism state as follows:
(2307) The fifth commandment forbids the intentional destruction of human life. Because of the evils and injustices that accompany all war, the Church insistently urges everyone to prayer and to action so that the divine Goodness may free us from the ancient bondage of war.105
(2308) All citizens and all governments are obliged to work for the avoidance of war….
(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: (1) the damage inflicted by the aggressor on the nation or community of nations must be lasting, grave, and certain; (2) all other means of putting an end to it must have been shown to be impractical or ineffective; (3) there must be serious prospects of success; (4) 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.
Concerning paragraph 2309, it first cannot be said that Saddam Hussein is an aggressor. Sophistry aside, at most, the Bush administration (and Messrs. Novak and Weigel) can contend that Hussein might be an aggressor at some point in the future.
Second, it cannot be said that all other means of avoiding conflict have been exhausted. If anything, the other means (U.N. inspections and disarmament) appear to be working. Third, there are no serious prospects for success in a war against Iraq, unless the United States is ready to make Iraq the 51st state and permanently govern the place. In the absence of such drastic (and ridiculous) measures, how do Messrs. Bush, Novak and Weigel intend to prevent young Iraqis from growing up to hate the United States and become terrorists? This has not been explained.
Fourth, with respect to the evils to be produced by the use of arms, what are Catholics to weigh such evils against? The evil to be eliminated.
Which is what? Ah, yes, a hypothetical, future evil which does not yet exist. But this is alleged to be "no problem" for the moral theories of Weigel, Novak, and the Times.
On this, the Feast of Saint Patrick, Catholics would do well to recall George Bush's ties to the not-exactly Catholic-friendly Bob Jones University (and the Reverend Ian Paisley), and to ignore the false moral exhortations of the Washington Times.
The Bush Administration's hoped-for war with Iraq is immoral, and must be avoided.
March 18, 2003
Mr. Dieteman [send him mail] is an attorney in Erie, Pennsylvania, and a PhD candidate in philosophy at The Catholic University of America.
© 2003 David Dieteman