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    Fr. Joseph Jenkins

  • The blog header depicts an important and yet mis-understood New Testament scene, Jesus flogging the money-changers out of the temple. I selected it because the faith that gives us consolation can also make us very uncomfortable. Both Divine Mercy and Divine Justice meet in Jesus. Priests are ministers of reconciliation, but never at the cost of truth. In or out of season, we must be courageous in preaching and living out the Gospel of Life. The title of my blog is a play on words, not Flogger Priest but Blogger Priest.

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Remembering Conservative Catholics & Iraq

Can conservative Catholics be condemned for misconstruing Catholic social teaching with their advocacy for the invasion of Iraq under the younger President Bush? Are they not guilty for supporting mass murder?  How can they now claim to be pro-life?

They would argue that there were many pressing reasons for the intervention. Despite sanctions, Saddam Hussein retained power. Given his dark history of terrorism and the argued weapons of mass destruction that he was sitting upon, many thought Iraq was a powder keg ready to blow. Important and respected leaders in Western government felt there was a pressing need for regime change. At the behest of the Bush administration, the Catholic intellectual Michael Novak visited Rome on two occasions arguing the application of the “just war theory” in an effort to get the Pope to change his stance. Pope John Paul II remained adamant against military intervention.

Was this an issue comparable with aborting children, as some pundits have claimed? I am not so sure. While it was always immoral to destroy innocent children, the Church acknowledged that the state had the authority in certain situations to react militarily for its own security and for that of allies.  Speaking for myself, I have struggled with recent efforts to make analogous the execution of the guilty in capital punishment.  Pope Francis has made absolute and taken to himself what popes previously gave to civil leadership as their prerogative. 

While I had serious misgivings about this particular invasion in principle, I felt that I had to give the benefit of a doubt to the president and our allies.  Few had access to whatever secret information they possessed. Hopefully, intelligence was correct and no one was being deceptive or misleading.    

What we do know for sure was that Saddam Hussein was a tyrant guilty of the arbitrary killing of a quarter million people. He refused to live in peace with his neighbors, invading Iran and Kuwait.   Oddly enough, the president of Iraq was Tariq Aziz, an Assyrian Catholic who saw the Pope and made a retreat in Rome just prior to the invasion. His Christian or baptismal name was Mikhail or Michael. He was the highest ranked Catholic in the Arab world and was loved as much as Hussein was hated. He would find himself under arrest after the invasion and would remain incarcerated until dying of a heart-attack. Hussein was perpetually concerned that his own people might overthrow him.  He was generous to the Christian community and placed many in upper leadership positions, knowing that as a vulnerable minority in the overall Islamic population they would have nothing to gain by his removal.   

Actually while Pope John Paul II opposed the invasion of Iraq, the Vatican generally supported intervention in Afghanistan. The Pope, as first the visible leader of the Catholic Church, was understandably concerned about how an invasion would impact the security and opportunities for the Catholic and Christian population, especially in cities like Bagdad.  (As it turns out, the effect was devastating and we would see the rise of ISIS and the slaughter of Christians.) However, while the Vatican preferred peaceful diplomacy, there was an admission that the ultimate decision about military intervention did not belong to a spiritual leader but to the civil governments.  Arguments were made that they alone were privy to information about hidden weapons of mass destruction. While these weapons were largely not found, there were widespread rumors that these armaments were hidden in the desert or clandestinely transported to neighboring countries.  We may never know the full story as many of those involved are now dead.