The Church and Me
VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- Pope John Paul II spoke out against a possible war against Iraq, telling Vatican-accredited diplomats that military force always must be "the very last option," even when motivated by legitimate concerns.
In an annual "state of the world" address Jan. 13, the pope said the future of humanity depends partly on the earth's peoples and their leaders having the courage to say "no to war."
"War is not always inevitable. It is always a defeat for humanity," he said.
"And what are we to say of the threat of a war which could strike the people of Iraq, the land of the prophets, a people already sorely tried by more than 12 years of embargo?" he said.
"War is never just another means that one can choose to employ for settling differences between nations," he said.
The pope said the U.N. charter and international law "remind us war cannot be decided upon, even when it is a matter of ensuring the common good, except as the last option and in accordance with very strict conditions, without ignoring the consequences for the civilian population both during and after the military options."
I was born into a Catholic family, but, following in the footsteps of my parents, I was never very religious. Growing up, I attended mass only on those rare week-ends I was staying with my grandparents. One of my keenest memories of youth was the suspicion my parents held for a kid and his family down the street from us who tried to get me involved in youth Christian camp one summer. In short, I didn't have a religious upbringing and for years and years Christianity was the last thing on my mind.
If you're older, like me, you probably won't be very surprised to hear that this began to change as I got older. I married into a Lutheran family and found, much to my surprise, that my apparently inherited anti-Protestant prejudices are actually quite strong. With no rational basis whatsoever, I found myself thinking as the pastor went on with services: this isn't a proper church and that guy isn't a proper priest and all this happy-clappy singing and arm-waving isn't uplifting or grand, it's silly.
Where did that come from?
I talked this over at the time with my friend Mark, he of the excellent blog OutdoorsPro. We've been friends for a long time, Mark and I. Since 8th Grade, I think. Mark knows how I think, I know how he thinks. So, I wasn't surprised when Mark put his finger on what was causing me friction with the Lutheran services. Said he (I quote from memory): "You're a serious guy and you take ideas serious and if you're going to join a church it isn't going to be some local church it's going to be The Church."
Mark was right. I began to look into it and began studying and reading. I joined an adult education class with a local parish here in Portland and was directed by the very knowledgeable PSU campus ministry co-ordinator to the more conservative American Catholic writers, especially Father John Neuhaus and his magazine First Things.
At the same time, the run-up to the Iraq War was in progress. As I was trying to learn more about this faith, I was presented with a challenge to my ability to ever fully embrace it. And when I saw the Pope saying a mass "for peace" with Iraqi Vice-President Tariq Aziz, I knew in my heart that I could never join the Church.
I have been saddened by that fact over the past few years, especially as the Church under new leadership has begun to show some sign of recognizing the overwhelming danger and threat posed by Islamism. But I have never doubted it was the right decision for me.
And now, further evidence:
Jul. 14 (CWNews.com) - The Holy See has protested Israel's air raids on Lebanon, condemning both terrorist acts and reprisals that violate national sovereignty and strike at innocent civilians.
With Pope Benedict XVI (bio - news) on vacation in the Italian Alps, the Vatican Secretary of State, Cardinal Angelo Sodano (bio - news), read a public statement on Vatican Radio. That statement was released promptly by the Vatican press office on July 14.
Cardinal Sodano said that the Holy Father was carefully following news of the latest developments in the Middle East, "which risk degenerating into a conflict with international repercussions."
"As in the past, the Holy See also condemns both the terrorist attacks on the one side and the military reprisals on the other," he continued." He argued that Israel's right to self-defense "does not exempt it from respecting the norms of international law, especially as regards the protection of civilian populations."
"In particular," the statement continued, "the Holy See deplores the attack on Lebanon, a free and sovereign nation."
On the wrong side. Again.