Catholic World News

USCCB: preventive war against Iran would raise serious moral questions

March 05, 2012

Referring to Iran and quoting the Compendium of the Catechism of the Catholic Church, the chairman of the Committee on International Justice and Peace of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops said that “engaging in a preventive war without clear proof that an attack is imminent cannot fail to raise serious moral and juridical questions.”

“In Catholic teaching, the use of force must always be a last resort,” Bishop Richard Pates wrote in a March 2 letter to Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton. “Iran’s bellicose statements, its failure to be transparent about its nuclear program and its possible acquisition of nuclear weapons are serious matters, but in themselves they do not justify military action.”

“The United States and the European Union have legitimately applied additional economic sanctions against Iran,” said Bishop Pates, who added:

Based on the Church’s teaching on war and peace, the Bishops’ Conference urges the U.S. Government to continue to explore all available options to resolve the conflict with Iran through diplomatic, rather than military, means. As Pope Benedict XVI has stated: “As far as Iran is concerned, tireless efforts must be made to seek a negotiated solution to the controversy concerning the nation’s nuclear program, through a mechanism capable of satisfying the legitimate demands of the country and of the international community.” Before military options are considered, all alternatives, including effective and targeted sanctions and incentives for Iran to engage in diplomacy and cooperate with the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), need to be exhausted.

From a moral perspective, in the absence of an immediate threat against the United States or our allies, military action would constitute an act of preventive war.

“The Church’s position against nuclear non-proliferation (sic) is clear,” he continued. “We believe nuclear weapons violate the just war norms of proportionality and discrimination in the use of force. Our Bishops’ Conference has earlier indicated our strong objection to Iran’s acquisition of nuclear weapons as it would further destabilize that volatile region and undermine nonproliferation efforts. We have often criticized Iran’s lack of transparency and cooperation with International Atomic Energy Agency inspectors.”

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  • Posted by: djpeterson - Mar. 06, 2012 9:48 AM ET USA

    Had we heeded the voice of the Holy Father ten years ago we could have avoided the tragically immoral Iraq war and the Afhgan debacle. Is Iran somehow more dangerous than Mao or Joe Stalin? We should handle Iran with prudence and not blindly follow the AIPAC or Israel Lobby, as US politicians feel pressured to do.

  • Posted by: shrink - Mar. 06, 2012 8:45 AM ET USA

    "“We believe nuclear weapons violate the just war norms of proportionality and discrimination in the use of force." I think this is Pates' view, but is it the view of the Church, such as the position spelled out in the documents of Vatican II?

  • Posted by: impossible - Mar. 05, 2012 6:33 PM ET USA

    A madman enters your home with a shotgun and points it at your spouse saying he intends to kill him/her. You don't know whether the gun is loaded or not. Do you negotiate with him or take preemptive action by shooting him in the head? What if his "gun" is pointed at an entire nation he has threatened to wipe off the map. Help me understand the difference.

  • Posted by: Duns Scotus - Mar. 05, 2012 6:05 PM ET USA

    I am sure the editors of AMERICA will soon issue and editorial complaining that Bishop Pates has delved too deeply into the details of policy. Now, if you buy that I have some ocean front property in Arizona I want to talk to you about buying.

  • Posted by: Lucius49 - Mar. 05, 2012 5:05 PM ET USA

    Moral acts to be good involve a good end, a good intention, and circumstances. I believe the usccb analysis of the circumstances is flawed. Self -defense in today's world does not require waiting to let an enemy obtain nuclear weapons which threaten the citizenry of one 's country or wait to be attacked by said weapon. This is a rogue gov't to which talks mean nothing The imminent threat needs to be removed as a matter of defense.