War/Preparation but not Support

Parish Diary

Fr. Peter Daly

March 10, 2003


            In our parish, we are doing everything we can to support our troops. We want our young men and women who are serving our country to know our gratitude, love and support.

            Every day at mass we pray for the safety of those who are serving our country. At the same time we also pray for the innocent civilians of Iraq.

            In the back of church we have a binder in which we have begun collecting the names and addresses of relatives and friends who are on active duty. One of our parishioners heads a ministry to them. We will try to remember them with cards on birthdays, holidays, holy days and anniversaries. We will send letters and care packages to let them know we are thinking of them and their sacrifices.

            This past Sunday we tried to support a particular family that had made the ultimate sacrifice. We took up a poor box collection for the widow and children of a young man from our community who was killed when his army helicopter crashed in Afghanistan. His death got little publicity because the crash occurred the same day as the Shuttle disaster. Moreover it was on the forgotten front of Afghanistan. His young wife is disabled with MS. She is left to raise two young children on her own. Our parish was moved by her plight and donated nearly $3,000 for her in the poor box.

            We are also try to remember our soldiers, sailors and airmen as they come and go. Our parish is sending a volunteer group to help at the USO lounge at the nearby airport where many young soldiers are shipping out on military flights. It is a small way to say we are with you as they go into danger and welcome home to those who have served us.

While our whole parish wants to show our support for our men and women in uniform, this does not mean that our whole parish agrees with this war. Far from it.

I, for one, think this war is morally dubious and legally questionable. It will lead us into a quagmire that we will not emerge from for years to come.

In fairness to our President, we have to admit that it is only the credible threat of force that has moved Saddam to accept inspectors at all or take even small steps to disarmament. Nevertheless, I agree more with our Pope than our President on this issue.

            Like our Pope, I believe that an attack on a Moslem nation by a largely Christian nation runs the risk of creating an era of hostility between Christianity and Islam that will last for generations. It will be perceived as a new crusade.

This war may well radicalize a whole generation of Islamic youth. We will create another 10,000 volunteers to join the ranks of the terrorists.

            The Bush doctrine of pre-emptive war is contrary to the principles of international law and violates the Catholic tradition of the "just war," which has been the cornerstone of the law of war. It will contribute to instability in the world. What argument will the U.S. make to other nations who want their own pre-emptive wars in places like Kashmir, the China/Taiwan Straights and the Korean peninsula?

As a Christian, I believe that the weapons of war are not the instruments of Christ or His followers. So long as there is a glimmer of hope for peaceful means, we should pursue them.

            As a pastor I find this situation agonizing.  For now, I am seeking a delicate balance. We should support our troops in every way we can. At the same time we reserve the right to use the freedom that flows in part from their brave service to disagree with the government and speak for peace.