- The Washington Times - Thursday, December 27, 2001

A broad-based group of Catholic activists is calling the war against terrorism immoral and is urging the Catholic Church to ditch its long-standing "just war" doctrine on the grounds that modern warfare is inherently unjust.
"Bishops and all Catholics," the group said in a statement, "must rethink the framework for making judgments on war and peace in order to highlight the serious restrictions which Catholic moral teaching has placed on warlike actions in practice ruling out modern warfare."
The coalition said in its Dec. 17 statement, signed by 68 Catholic organizations and individuals, that U.S. bishops need to denounce the war in Afghanistan because of collateral damage caused by the U.S.-led bombing campaign resulting in the deaths of innocent civilians violating Catholic teaching on the "inadmissibility of indiscriminate attacks on innocent people."
"We find the military response to the acts of September 11 violates Catholic teaching," said Dave Robinson, one of the signers of the statement and national coordinator of Pax Christi U.S.A., based in Erie, Pa.
Besides Mr. Robinson and other officers of Pax Christi, the signatories include Kathleen Pruitt, president of the Leadership Conference of Women Religious; Sister Helene O'Sullivan, president of the Maryknoll Sisters; Aline Marie Steuer, president of the Sisters of the Holy Cross; and Joseph Nangle, the co-director of the Franciscan Mission Service.
Mr. Robinson said that "3,700 innocent civilians were killed in Afghanistan. They had nothing to do with the al Qaeda network. This is a violation of Catholic teaching on a just war."
The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops has authorized the war against Osama bin Laden and his al Qaeda terrorist network, saying in a statement released in November that "the dreadful deeds of September 11 cannot go unanswered."
"Our nation must continue to respond in many ways, including diplomacy, economic measures, effective intelligence, more focus on security at home, and the legitimate use of force," the bishops wrote
Yet critics of the statement say the military campaign in Afghanistan is in compliance with the "just war" doctrine. "The administration's policy has been exceedingly careful not to target innocents and avoid the death of innocents. There will always be innocent people caught in lethal action," said the Rev. Richard John Neuhaus, editor in chief of First Things, a monthly conservative Catholic journal.
"The 'just war' doctrine prohibits the deliberate and indiscriminate killing of innocent civilians. The administration has clearly not violated the Catholic Church's 'just war' doctrine in the prosecution of this war," Father Neuhaus said.
He added: "It is moral equivalence to suggest that the deaths at the World Trade Center committed by terrorists who deliberately and in cold blood targeted innocents are comparable to the unintentional killing of civilians in Afghanistan. … It is grotesque to even suggest such a thing."
Father Neuhaus also disputes the number of innocent civilians claimed by the group to have been killed in the war in Afghanistan.
"It is a sin against charity in making the claim that 3,700 civilians were killed. And less than adherence to the course of honesty in making these allegations," he said.
The "just war" doctrine states that the use of military force is legitimate only for defensive purposes to protect innocent people from unjust aggression. The Catholic Church historically has said that war can be waged only with the intention of establishing a just peace, and that there must be no intentional killing of innocent civilians.
Mr. Robinson insists that his critics are wrong in backing the war against terrorism.
"They are not clear on the 'just war' doctrine how it evolved and developed. It began as a pacifist doctrine," he said.
The group also said that the global campaign to end terrorism will not succeed through the use of military power, but by eliminating the "injustices and root causes that create the fertile soil in which disinherited and disillusioned people are recruited to terrorism."

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