An unsigned op-ed in the Wall Street Journal makes the case that Pope John Paul was wrong about the Gulf War and is wrong about the Iraq crisis today. I don’t agree 100% with all their conclusions, but I am in agreement with most of what it says.
The writer says that what the Pope has said about impending war is not as harsh as what other Vatican officials have said.
- Now, we appreciate too that the Holy Father’s own statements have been more nuanced than the oft-intemperate language used by other Vatican officials, not to mention the Vatican’s official and semi-official publications. But it strikes us that precision is also a moral obligation. As a teacher, the pope surely bears special responsibility not simply for his own words but the interpretations and framework offered by men and institutions under his control.
They are correct. Official and semi-official Vatican sources have derided America as imperialist, accused Bush of being a cowboy, impugned our motives as based on a desire for Iraqi oil, and so on. If I didn’t know any better, I would think that some of the statements were written by someone like the radical left-wing Saddam apologists at International A.N.S.W.E.R.
The op-ed notes that we heard similar dire warnings, predictions, and criticisms in 1990 and 1991.
- We have been here before. In his otherwise positive biography of the pope, George Weigel notes that the pontiff struck an “almost apocalyptic” note in the run-up to the war provoked by Iraq’s 1990 invasion of Kuwait. Today the Vatican argues that no war against Iraq can be just without the imprimatur of the Security Council and an overt act of aggression on Baghdad’s part. But back in 1991 we had both—and the Vatican’s opposition was equally impassioned.
It tempts one to ask under what conditions can a just war be prosecuted then? As others have noted, no one wants the Pope to call for a “crusade” or endorse bloodshed, but perhaps in the plea for peace we could have more recognition of the jusice of the cause of disarming Iraq and replacing Saddam. Perhaps we could hear less criticism of America for responding to the danger and more criticism of Iraq which is the real origin of the crisis.