Catholics debate way to Iraq peace - Catholic Courier

Catholics debate way to Iraq peace

When U.S. Army Reserve Lt. Col. Antonio Morales was serving in Iraq, he used to read from a wartime prayer book written by the late Archbishop Fulton J. Sheen, bishop of the Diocese of Rochester from 1966-69.

“There is a greater tragedy than death: the victory of evil,” Archbishop Sheen wrote. For Morales, who recalled hearing mortar attacks, that prayer comforted him whenever his duties were stressful.

“Just knowing that what we’re doing does support the common good of eliminating terrorism and the evil behind it inspired me to not think about dying,” Morales said during an interview at the headquarters of the 98th Division in Rochester.

A parishioner of St. Lawrence Church in Greece, Morales served in Kuwait and Iraq from July 2004 to July 2005. During two stints of about one month apiece in Iraq, Morales helped train soldiers in the Iraqi army. He noted that he believes in the necessity of the U.S.-led coalition’s 2003 invasion of Iraq. The war ended the long reign of torture and terror by Saddam Hussein; enabled the Iraqis to begin building a democracy; and, along with the toppling of the Taliban in Afghanistan, has apparently stymied terrorist attacks against the United States, he said.

The prophet Isaiah wrote of nations beating swords into ploughshares and ending war. On that note, Morales clearly believed that staying the course in Iraq will eventually help end the war on terrorism. However, a group of Catholic Workers from Ithaca hold a view at odds with that of their fellow Catholic. Known as the St. Patrick’s Four, Clare T. Grady, her sister, Teresa B. Grady, their brother-in-law, Peter DeMott, and Daniel J. Burns poured blood around the entrance of a military recruiting station in Lansing, near Ithaca, on March 17, 2003. In a statement released at that time, the protesters cited their faith in justifying their actions.

“As Catholics, when we receive the Eucharist, we acknowledge our oneness with God and the entire human family,” the statement read. “We went to the recruiting center using what we have — our bodies, our blood, our words, and our spirits — to implore, beg, and order our country away from the tragedy of war and toward God’s reign of peace and justice.”

In January, the four protesters will be sentenced in federal court for their conviction on two misdemeanor charges — damage to government property and entering a military installation for unlawful purposes. Each of the four face up to 18 months in jail, but were acquitted of the more serious felony charge of conspiracy to impede a federal officer.

Clare Grady said her group chose St. Patrick’s Day, in part, because the patron of Ireland had written: “Killing is not with Christ.” She added that the Iraq war also did not meet the Catholic Church’s qualifications for a just war. According to the Catechism of the Catholic Church, section 2309, those criteria are:

* Damage inflicted by an aggressor (such as Iraq) on the nation or community of nations must be lasting, grave and certain.

* All other means of putting an end to an aggressor’s actions must have been shown to be impractical or ineffective.

* There must be serious prospects of success.

* The use of arms must not produce evils or disorders graver than the evil to be eliminated. The power of modern means of destruction weighs very heavily in evaluating this condition.

She said the U.S. invasion of Iraq fails these tests, in part, because of the thousands of civilians killed through the war and because the United States did not spend enough time negotiating with Iraq before it invaded.

“(The U.S. government) did not exhaust the means to prevent the war by any stretch of the imagination,” she said.

Her fellow protester, Burns, said he and his cohorts still see the war in Iraq as wrong, and noted that many Catholics — including the late Pope John Paul II and the U.S. bishops — had opposed the war, and also opposed the U.S.-supported economic sanctions on Iraq during the 1990s, which critics blamed for leading to thousands of Iraqi civilian deaths. He added that the United States supported the Hussein dictatorship in the 1980s and that it was hypocritical to then say the Iraq invasion was a war designed to remove him.

Burns added that he and DeMott traveled to Iraq in December 2003 and spoke with both Iraqis and U.S. soldiers. In particular, he noted, the Iraqis welcomed Saddam’s ouster, but urged the United States to leave Iraq, Burns said, because they want to rebuild their own country by themselves. Burns said he still believes his civil disobedience was justified.

“I would have sat down and pleaded guilty if anyone from the U.S. government had justified the death of one Iraqi child to me — and they can’t,” he said.

For his part, Morales said he believes the Iraq war is just. Saddam Hussein never stopped threatening the West, even after he lost the Gulf War; civilian casualties since the invasion have been relatively low compared to other wars that were considered just, such as World War II; thousands of Iraqis have willingly joined their nation’s new army and support its government; and al-Qaeda is using Iraq as a battleground and must be confronted there, he noted.

“We haven’t been attacked since Sept. 11,” Morales said. “We’ve kept our soil pretty safe at this point. What other measurement can there be?”

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