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Catholic Writers Recruited to Support Bush War on Iraq: Michael Novak Hired to Undermine Pope John Paul II’s Position

President Bush’s Ambassador to the Holy See has asked Michael Novak to develop even further his theological theory of justification for preventive war to support Bush. Novak will present his ideas in February at a conference on the just war organized by the Ambadssador. In the past several months Novak, along with fellow neo-conservative writers George Weigel and Robert Royal have been publishing their own just war theories in favor of an attack on Iraq in direct opposition to the Vatican. Their cleverly written arguments make it sound as if the important thing is simply to use the term just war, be talking about the theory, rather than follow the conditions of the theory taught in Catholic tradition.

Just as these men, together with Fr. Richard Neuhaus, editor of First Things, undermined and changed the perception for many readers the teaching of John Paul II in his three social encyclicals, they seem to be making the same attempt regarding the possibilities of a just war under a new, very questionable “theological” theory. These men, close to the Bush administration and known as neocons, represent the most powerful hierarchy in the United States. This means power, not wisdom.

Pope John Paul II (see p. 8-9), Cardinal Ratzinger, Archbishop Martino (President of the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace), the influential and authoritative Jesuit journal in Rome, Civiltá Cattolica, and the U. S. Catholic Bishops. have all denounced the plans of President Bush to attack Iraq.

Cardinal Ratzinger has said, “A preventive war is not in the Catechism.”

Civiltá Cattolica points out that an American attack on Iraq would be motivated in large part by political and economic reasons rather than military necessity and rejects the Bush argument that a preventive war should be considered a defensive action.

Archbishop Martino said that “a preventive war is a war of aggression.”

Since October 2002, the United States Bishops have been challenging these men’s new theories on the just war: “We find that war with Iraq would not meet the strict conditions in Catholic teaching for overriding the strong presumption against the use of military force.”

Across the World Wide Web, commentators, including many conservatives, have been voicing their criticisms of the position of the neocons, raising serious questions about their idea of “developing and extending” the just war theory “to meet the political exigencies of a new century,” including just such actions as preemptive strikes.

Dorothy Day and theologians writing in The Catholic Worker used the just war theory as long ago as World War II to condemn all modern war.

One eloquent, perceptive commentator recently described the neocons’ new theory as corruption, rather than development, of dogma: “There is some considerable irony in the Pope’s biographer and trusted confidant, George Weigel, arguing against the Pope that a war on Iraq would be just according to new “developed and extended,” just war principles, while the rebellious ultraconservative Society of St. Pius X, using old, undeveloped and unextended just war principles, argues that a war against Iraq would not be just.”

As an ex-Marine, pastor of the parish church we attended last Sunday said, “We want peace, not war.”

M.L.Z., L.Y.Z.

Houston Catholic Worker, Vol. XXIII, No. 1, January-February 2003.