Monday, November 15, 2010

"Where is the world conscience?"

Last Wednesday, 10 November 2010, the President of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, Francis Cardinal George, OMI, archbishop of Chicago, wrote a letter to President Obama urging him to take measures to protect all Iraqis, especially endangered miniorities, like Christians in the wake of recent attacks.

Dear Mr. President:

The October 31 attack on the Syrian Catholic cathedral in Baghdad that killed 58 and wounded 75, together with the recent wave of bombings in Iraq’s capital, are grim evidence of the savage violence and lack of security that has plagued the Iraqi people, especially Christians and other minorities, for over seven years. Some reports even indicate that the October 31 attack may have been more extensive and the failures of security more egregious than originally thought. Enclosed you will find a press release by the Most Reverend Yousif Habash, Bishop of the Eparchy of Our Lady of Deliverance of Newark for Syrian Catholics.

In the recent Synod of Bishops on the Middle East in Rome, the bishops from Iraq spoke of the terrifying situation facing Christians and other minorities in that country. They recalled murders, kidnappings, bombings, and naked threats that have forced many Christians from their homes and businesses. Ironically, just two weeks before the October 31 attack, Archbishop Athanase Matti Shaba Matoka of the Syrian Catholic Church in Iraq, whose cathedral was the site of the October 31 attack, addressed the Synod: “The invasion of Iraq by America and its allies brought to Iraq in general, and especially to its Christians, destruction and ruin on all levels. … Seven years have passed and Christianity is still bleeding. Where is the world conscience? All the world remains a spectator before what is happening in Iraq, especially with regards to Christians.”

Archbishop Matoka’s strong words remind us of the moral responsibility that the United States bears for working effectively with the Iraqi government to stem the violence. Prior to the war, our Conference of Bishops raised grave moral questions regarding the possibility of U.S. military intervention in Iraq and warned of "unpredictable consequences." The decimation of the Christian community in Iraq and the continuing violence that threatens all Iraqis are among those tragic consequences.

Our troops have served with bravery and distinction, and we welcome the end of U.S.-led combat in Iraq; however, the United States has so far failed in helping Iraqis to develop the political will needed to deploy effective strategies to protect the lives of all citizens, especially Christians and other vulnerable minorities. More must be done to help ensure that refugees and displaced persons are able to return to their homes safely. Having invaded Iraq, our nation has a moral obligation not to abandon those Iraqis who cannot defend themselves.

The murderous attack on innocent Christians gathered for worship witnesses to the need for the United States to redouble its efforts to assist Iraq as our engagement enters a new phase. At a minimum, our country must strengthen its work with Iraqis and the international community to: enable the Iraqi government to function for the common good of all Iraqis; build the capacity of Iraq’s military and police to provide security for all citizens, including minorities; improve the judicial system and rule of law; promote reconciliation and the protection of human rights, especially religious freedom; rebuild Iraq’s shattered economy so that Iraqis can support their families; and assist refugees and internally displaced Iraqis.

To meet its moral obligations to the Iraqi people, it is critically important that the United States take additional steps now to help Iraq protect its citizens, especially Christians and others who are victims of organized attacks. Thank you for your kind consideration of this urgent request.

Sincerely yours,

Francis Cardinal George, O.M.I.
Archbishop of Chicago

How many more reasons do yo need to fast, to pray, to give alms and live in solidarity with our brothers and sisters as we prepare again to celebrate the Nativity of Our Lord in safety and security? Alms for the Iraqi Church and all the churches of the Middle East are best given through the Catholic Near Eastern Welfare Association, a cause worthy of your support all the time.

The Psalm-prayer for this evening (Monday, Week I of the Psalter), expresses well our concern for our endangered sisters and brothers:

Lord God, you search the hearts of all, both the good and the wicked. May those who are in danger for love of you, find security in you now, and, in the day of judgment, may they rejoice in seeing you face to face. Amen.

All holy men and women, pray for us, especially the recent martyrs of Baghdad


  1. There are many who predicted that the withdrawal of American troops would lead to a vacuum that would breed this kind of violence.

    Unfortinately, this is what typically happens after a military pull-out of foreign forces when there is not enough stability.

    There are many who said, "bring the troops home". And I can certainly understand American citizens wanting this.

    However, in doing so, this and the former administration have created a problem which history should have already taught them. Yet they did not learn the lessons of what happened when America pulled out of Vietnam.

    America couldn't stay in Iraq forever, nor can it easily withdraw without the violence we see today.

    But here's the problem. America will tend to ignore the violence there, because our troops have withdrawn. There is no will on the part of American people to see this through.

    America went in and did a half-assed job. Saddam Hussein was a butcher that needed to go. It is a sad irony, though, that the violence continues.

  2. Dan:

    I agree. Our involvement in Iraq from beginning to what is starting to be the end is, indeed, half-assed. The U.S. invasion of Iraq was opposed by the Holy See from the get-go. However, since we did it, the Holy See has been equally adamant that we have a moral duty to stabilize the country before leaving. Sadly, this won't be the case and our brothers and sisters in Christ, who have been there far longer than Islam has been extant, will continue to be targeted by Islamic extremists.

    Another sad casualty of the modern Middle East are the ancient Jewish communities from the levant to Afghanistan, including what at one time was a large community in Baghdad.

    The opening verses of Psalm 79 comes to mind:

    "O God, the nations have come into your inheritance;
    they have defiled your holy temple;
    they have laid Jerusalem in ruins.

    "They have given the bodies of your servants to the birds of the heavens for food, the flesh of your faithful to the beasts of the earth.

    "They have poured out their blood like water all around Jerusalem, and there was no one to bury them.

    "We have become a taunt to our neighbors, mocked and derided by those around us.

    "How long, O Lord? Will you be angry forever? Will your jealousy burn like fire?"

  3. I must say that I struggle with the whole concept of "just" war. Entering into conflict brings into it evil. Sometimes not engaging in conflict lets evil continue.

    it seems to me (from my limited perspective), that there are times when there is no morally good option. It is a choice among evils.

    I see this in our decision to invade Iraq. I see this in the aggresive methods (waterboarding) used by our government, I see this in our use of Nuke's in WWII against Japan.

    It becomes very difficult when there is hardly a "good" that can be chosen.

    I trust the wisdom of the Church, because I recognize my own limitations in discernment of these things. But this is one area where I honestly just don't know how one can come to form their conscience on such issues when no decision seems to point to the good.

    This is something we are discussing in Morality, in Gula's text. No answers are discovered in the questions, just more questions. But I guess that is the nature of things.

  4. The problem with Iraq, as Pope John Paul II forcefully pointed out, is that it did not meet the just war criteria. I have no problem at all with just war theory as it applies to various situations. Of course, just war theory traditionally breaks into two parts: jus ad bellum, which governs when force can be used, and jus in bello, which deals with how force is to be used. A newer necessary addition to just war theory is jus post bellum that deals with how to justly terminate a conflict. It seems to me that to create an unstable situation and leave while innocents are vulnerable and likely to be attacked (i.e., Christians in Iraq) is not just.


"I'm gonna kick tomorrow"

I have long loved the sound of the '90s band Jane's Addiction. While doing some music listening recently, I ran across this acousti...