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Catholic commentary round-up on proposed attack in Syria

The past few days have seen a burst of commentary from Catholic writers about the proposed attack in Syria. This blog has featured a lot, and the current issue of the magazine has Gabriel Said Reynolds's essential short take. A few other items of note, and feel free to add more in the comments:

Maryann Cusimano Love on the "just war" question in the Huffington Post

Drew Christiansen, S.J., on the role of prayer in Washington Post "On Faith"

Tobias Winright on "just war" analysis in The Tablet and Catholic Moral Theology

R. R. Reno on "symbolic killing" in First Things

The USCCB's letter to President Obama

E. J. Dionne's column in praise of democracy, today in the Washington Post

Michael Sean Winters taking the liberal interventionist route in National Catholic Reporter

And, of course, the Pope has been leading the way from last week's Angelus to his letter to President Putin to his forceful social media activism, about which I wrote a short piece in the Washington Post's "On Faith" section. My take-home point was: "Prayerful, prophetic denunciation of war is one papal tradition that the reform-minded Francis will not be changing."

Elizabeth Tenety offered a round-up of some of these critiques from the commentariat, and then posed the question of whether all the Catholics in political power in the United States are listening.

Are they???

Finally, if you're in the New York area, I'm sure the Pope's out-front anti-war message will become a topic of conversation at our Fordham panel about Pope Francis on Mon, Sept 9, at Lincoln Center campus.  Info and RSVP HERE.

About the Author

Michael Peppard is associate professor of theology at Fordham University, author of The World's Oldest Church and The Son of God in the Roman World, and on Twitter @MichaelPeppard.



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Here's another one:

"What moral theologians say about getting involved in Syria," Thomas Reese, NCR, Sept. 3, 2013

How about these?


We all have the strength to endure the misfortune of others.    (Francois de la Rouchefoucald)


Every person must decide whether to walk in the light of creative altruism or the darkness of selfishness. This is the judgment. Life's most persistent and urgent question is, what are you doing for others?      (Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.)





My questions are: 

1.  How reliable is the U. S. intelligence and what does it tell us about the current facts?

2.  Given our intelligence, what are the likely outcomes  if:

         a)  Syria's military is crippled

        b) Syria's military is not crippled

 Or is the situation just so complex that likely projections simply cannot be made?  Is there anything in the M.E. that is predictable?


Our government is proposing to kill people because its will was not followed, no more no less.  No justification, no chance of success. Lets suffer the wounded pride and credibility and move on. Now if someone is proposing a real commitment and solution, then it's worth a discussion.


Kerry's new argument is that we need to send a 'message' to Iran.... so we need to mail missles to Damascus.,, sounds like a Rumsfeld idea. .  

What the US intelligence and government officials tell us has nothing to do with the truth. Here is what they told us ten years ago ( ). 


09/18/2002,  Donald Rumsfeld, Secretary of Defense (before Congress)

"We do know that the Iraqi regime has chemical and biological weapons. His regime has amassed large, clandestine stockpiles of chemical weapons -- including VX, sarin, cyclosarin and mustard gas. ... His regime has amassed large, clandestine stockpiles of biological weapons—including anthrax and botulism toxin, and possibly smallpox." (presentation to Congress)

10/7/2002, George W. Bush, President

"The Iraqi regime . . . possesses and produces chemical and biological weapons. It is seeking nuclear weapons. We know that the regime has produced thousands of tons of chemical agents, including mustard gas, sarin nerve gas, VX nerve gas."

02/08/2003, George W. Bush, President

"We also know that Iraq is harboring a terrorist network headed by a senior al Qaeda terrorist planner. This network runs a poison and explosive training camp in northeast Iraq, and many of its leaders are known to be in Baghdad."

03/22/2003, General Tommy Franks

"There is no doubt that the regime of Saddam Hussein possesses weapons of mass destruction. As this operation continues, those weapons will be identified, found, along with the people who have produced them and who guard them." 

03/30/2003, Donald Rumsfeld, Secretary of Defense

"We know where they are [Iraq's weapons of mass destruction]. They're in the area around Tikrit and Baghdad and east, west, south and north somewhat."



Oh, come off it, folks.  There is no one "U. S. government", some one purportedly real person  with a will of its own who persists through time and chooses to fool us poor benighted citizenry about its selfish and sinister intentions.   "The U. S. government" is a group of people with varying amounts of information and power, with the president of any particular time having the most power, but even he isn't the whole of it.  

If you want to accuse anybody or any group of people, NAME them and tell us the evidence you have for your specific accusations about specific events in time -- with dates and places.  Otherwise quite your blanket moralizeing.

As the no vote gains momentum in the House, Boehner and Pelosi, both Catholics, will most assuredly start whipping the vote in the president's favour. Pelosi is a master at it. And Biden, another Catholic will forcefully engage Congress on this issue. Kerrry, another Catholic, is the most forceful and articulate proponent of the action.

I see little to no evidence of a moral calculus around the concept of just war being part of the comments (except arguably from Kerry). Most arguements tend to focus on the need to keep US credibility (notwithstanding Obama's whiffing on his red-line comment), sending a message to Iran, and at least setting the conditions to support the "opposition" (aka al Qaeda) to gain momentum.

And by the way, Obama to secure the hawks of the Republican wing, agreed to supply the opposition with artillery, training, and other forms of logistical support. So, this resolution does, in fact, include robust engagement even if there are not ground troops.

There are certainly other paths for resolution. Both Putin and Obama agreed a few months ago to work towards a negotiated agreement but Obama was not able to get the opposition to the table. If we are so engaged with these so called moderates, why can we not convince them that sitting down and talking in mediated discussions a settlement? And is this not the more moral resolution. This is doing "something". Part of that discussion can include how to secure chemical weapons away from the country

I have seen little attention in the secular press to the Pope's letter to Putin or Cardinal Dolan's to Obama. Have I missed it?

It think the attitude of a large part of the secular press when it comes to Catholic statements that don't fit the general trend of the moment is:  Quite frankly, my dear, I don't give a damn.


Prayer and sacrifice?  That won't earn front page placement on any major newspaper, blogsite or television channel.


Dolan has about as much credibility as does Marcel Maciel.  No one really cares what he says.

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