Peace, peace, and there was no peace

Peace, peace, and there was no peace

A friend who follows the goings on in the Vatican very closely remarks that it seems the everything going on there is related in some way to the anti-war notion.

    At the Angelus audience, the Pope asks for prayers for peace. In his Lenten message, he says we should fast and do penance for peace. His Mission Sunday message says evangelism is a mission of peace.

    Meanwhile the Congregation for the Clergy has a whiz-bang worldwide teleconference (does anybody watch these things?) and the topic is peace. An inter-religious group issues a report on cooperation in service of peace. The arts council examines movies about war and peace.

He says that he’s all for praying for peace and that avoidance of war is good thing. In fact, he hasn’t yet made up his mind on whether he supports invasion of Iraq. But, as he points out, can the Church also address anything else? He says that he won’t be making any war and peace decisions today, but that he will make many decisions with consequences for his eternal destiny. And it’s not just the quantity of the anti-war statements coming out of the Vatican, but the quality:

    I still have real misgivings about the prospect of war against Iraq. I would welcome a debate based on just-war principles. That’s not what we’re getting from Rome. Instead, Vatican pronouncements fall into 2 basic headings:

    • There’s the plea for negotiations—and more negotiations, and more, … This is generally the Pope’s line: Yes, things are bad, but we can always solve these problems by talking about them. Can we? Like, maybe, the way the Vatican has “solved” the problem of heterodoxy at Catholic colleges by talking about Ex Corde for a decade or so?

    • There’s the hardball-political-analyst approach, in which Vatican officials—notably Cdl Sodano—tell us that we need to think about the practical consequences of a war, such as the likely hostility of the Arab world. Thanks, but I suspect one or two bright young men at the State Department already came up with that blinding insight.

    (I have noticed that prelates often feel the temptation to fancy themselves very canny politicians. Truly canny politicians often encourage that delusion, because it gives them an opportunity to take the prelates to the cleaners. I have no doubt that’s the real reason why the Vatican is now the world’s smallest state.)

That may be stated a bit stronger than I would, but his point is basically right on. Cardinal Sodano’s worries about the political situation are fine, but don’t really measure up to the role of the Vatican in helping us to determine the moral course. There are plenty of moral decisions with politically unpopular ramifications. But tell us, at what point do we decide that enough is enough.

To hear some Vatican officials tell it, the onus is all on the US. Cardinal Etchegaray, the papal envoy who just went to Baghdad, said that Saddam Hussein is doing all he can to avoid war. Oh really? Like fully cooperating with the weapon inspectors? Like documenting the destruction of his arsenals? Like refraining from firing on UN aircraft lawfully patrolling the no-fly zone? How much of the Vatican position is built on moral principle, and how much is built on a subtle European anti-American bias?

Written by
Domenico Bettinelli

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