The Bishops & Iraq

Where Was the Coverage?

After walking in late to a monthly meeting of eucharistic ministers at my parish in Brooklyn, New York, I sensed right away that something was wrong. Everyone was tense.

The deacon who leads the ministry was raising questions about the morality of pursuing war against Iraq, and it was pretty clear that most of those in the room supported President George W. Bush’s plans. When asked what I thought, I tried the easy way out.

"I’ll go with the bishops," I said. But more than a week after the U.S. Catholic bishops’ September 17 announcement of their opposition to a preemptive attack on Iraq, none of the thirty or so people present, all of them committed Catholics, knew about it. And why would they? They had missed the ninety-nine-word wire-service brief the New York Times ran on September 18, the only mention it got to that point in New York City’s daily newspapers.

Bishop Wilton Gregory’s letter on behalf of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ sixty-member administrative board was news and should have been treated that way. Urging that Bush "step back from the brink of war," Gregory contended that "a preemptive, unilateral use of force is difficult to justify at this time." He went on to provide a point-by-point application of the just-war theory.

With extremely few exceptions, major newspapers waited ten days or...

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About the Author

Paul Moses, a professor of journalism at Brooklyn College/CUNY, is the author of The Saint and the Sultan: The Crusades, Islam and Francis of Assisi's Mission of Peace (Doubleday, 2009) and An Unlikely Union: The Love-Hate Story of New York's Irish and Italians (NYU Press, 2015).