Last weekend when I attended Mass at my local parish, we were told to look at the weekly bulletin for an insert that provided information on the positions of the two top presidential candidates. This is fairly normal as the Catholic Church (and any religion for that matter) is concerned about the various laws on the books and any that could be added in the future. These pamphlets and flyers don’t tell people how they should vote; instead, they list the candidates’ positions on issues relevant to the Church’s teachings.
I think this is a good practice. It condenses the issues down to something that can be read in a few minutes.
I was curious about what issues would be listed in this particular flyer created by The Delaware Catholic Advocacy Network (DCAN). They featured the ones you would expect: abortion, the death penalty, euthanasia, marriage, health care, etc. But I was looking for one specific issue and I was not surprised that I did not find it.
There was nothing about war. Okay, they had one issue listed as “International Security,” which described how each candidate proposed to deal with ISIS, but what about each candidate’s position on how the country has been at war for the last 15 years? And it hasn’t been just one war–it’s been multiple wars in multiple countries with even more likely on the horizon.
It’s not just DCAN that misses the mark on war; it is something that the entire Church seems to struggle with.
Surely the Catholic Church should be anti-war or at least insist upon adhering to just war theory (setting aside the question of whether a “just war” is even possible). Why the silence? Are the deaths of hundreds of thousands of innocent civilians in countries like Iraq, Pakistan, and Afghanistan resulting from American bombings and the indirect deaths due to blockading not included in DCAN’s appeal to respecting human life?
Here’s what their own pamphlet had to say about it:
Any politics of human dignity must seriously address issues of racism, poverty, hunger, employment, education, housing, and health care. Therefore, Catholics should eagerly involve themselves as advocates for the weak and marginalized in all these areas…But being ‘right’ in such matters can never excuse a wrong choice regarding direct attacks on innocent human life. Indeed, the failure to protect and defend life in its most vulnerable stages renders suspect any claims to the ‘rightness’ of positions in other matters affecting the poorest and least powerful of the human community. If we understand the human person as the ‘temple of the Holy Spirit’ — the living house of God — then these latter issues fall logically into place as the crossbeams and walls of that house. All direct attacks on innocent human life, such as abortion and euthanasia, strike at the house’s foundation. These directly and immediately violate the human person’s most fundamental right – the right to life. – From Living the Gospel of Life, No. 22 with original emphasis (Pastoral Statement of the U.S. Catholic Bishops, 1998).
It seems to me that the death and destruction caused by war is an obvious violation of humans rights.
Part of the problem is that the various “wars on terror” are generally judged by their alleged intentions: to keep Americans safe from people who mean to do them harm. The execution of these wars and even the reasons behind them, however, are far from that ideal. History did not start on September 11, 2001. The US government has lied about the reasons for these wars and their careless killing of civilians is appalling. How can the Catholic Church, which should act as a moral compass for its members, not be at the front of the movement against these wars?
As a Catholic, this is extremely frustrating for me. The Church teaches that life should be respected from conception to natural death. The Church is consistent in its teachings that life should be protected when it is in the womb but it remains largely silent on whether it should be protected in the Middle East.
What has happened to the Catholic Church if it can’t get it right on war?