Unfortunately, during his private meeting with President Bush yesterday, it doesn’t seem that Pope Benedict repeated the sentiments on the president’s war on Iraq that he expressed prior to the president’s invasion of Iraq five years ago.
According to an article in the Houston Catholic Worker, prior to the invasion of Iraq in 2003, Benedict (as Cardinal Ratzinger) had been asked whether a war on Iraq would be just. “Certainly not,” he answered. “The damage would be greater than the values one hopes to save.”
He also stated, “All I can do is invite you to read the Catechism, and the conclusion seems obvious to me…. ‘The concept of preventive war does not appear in The Catechism of the Catholic Church.’”
According to the article, “Even after the war, Cardinal Ratzinger did not cease criticism of U.S. violence and imperialism: ‘It was right to resist the war and its threats of destruction…It should never be the responsibility of just one nation to make decisions for the world.’”
Addressing Catholic neo-con supporters of the war, Cardinal Ratzinger said, “There were not sufficient reasons to unleash a war against Iraq. To say nothing of the fact that, given the new weapons that make possible destructions that go beyond the combatant groups, today we should be asking ourselves if it is still licit to admit the very existence of a ‘just war’.”
Given that it would be difficult to find a better example of a war of aggression, a type of war punished as a war crime at Nuremberg, than Bush’s war on Iraq, I can’t help but wonder how many Catholic soldiers who kill or have killed Iraqis are at least a bit troubled by the Pope’s opposition to the war. Of course, much more important for Catholic soldiers to consider is the fact that obedience to orders never trumps obedience to the laws of God.