Peace and the Predator

Thank you for the analysis you provided in the “Three Catholic Voices on the Iraq Conflict” (March 23–29). The interviews, while leaving several unanswered questions in my mind, did a good job of laying out the complexities of the moral dilemma facing many Catholics and other persons of good will.

I wish to comment on one of the points made by Archbishop Renato Martino. I find his attempt to draw comparisons between the Catholic positions on just war and capital punishment to be seriously flawed.

For one thing, the issue of capital punishment comes under consideration only after the perpetrator of a heinous crime has been captured and neutralized, often after violent and potentially lethal action, by the police. In this case we are concerned with the question of how to keep the criminal neutralized and not with how to defend against ongoing attacks by an at-large predator as is the case in time of war.

Second, the argument against capital punishment is predicated on the assumption that the criminal can be kept from further violence through the application of non lethal force, that is, through incarceration. We have no such alternative with the situation in Iraq. Saddam Hussein has a history of lies and deceptions that render negotiation meaningless in his case.

Finally, the archbishop's claim that there is no proportionality between the offense and the reply seems predicated on the assumption that nuclear weapons are to be used.

In fact, it is precisely the fear that nuclear and other weapons of mass destruction are presently or soon to be in the hands of an adversary who has demonstrated a willingness to use them that has prompted us to enter into this conflict.

The weapons that we see employed by the United States, while not flawless, have thus far been less destructive of noncombatants and their property than the so-called conventional weapons of World War II.

Neither the cause of peace nor the proper formation of a Catholic conscience is well served by this kind of flawed logic and naive wishful thinking. We need a meaningful way to deal with untrustworthy aggressors that enables us to comply with both biblical admonitions: “thou shalt not kill” (Exodus 20:13) and “nor shall you stand idly by while your neighbor's life is in danger” (Leviticus 19:16). Perhaps we are called to the total self-denial that reflects the Christ of Philippians 2:6-7, but it serves no useful purpose to claim that peace can be achieved by pretending evil people will act honorably.

ROBERT J. CHARLESWORTH Burlington, Vermont

Internal Rot Our Downfall

It is the day following President Bush's 48-hour ultimatum, and the first words from Scripture at Mass this morning were “Hear the word of the Lord, O princes of Sodom! Listen to the instruction of our God, people of Gomorrah! Wash yourselves clean!” But there is no call to repentance from our pulpits and I have hardly heard the word “confession” mentioned this Lent. Do we presume we have no sins? How else does the devil enter in?

I cannot help but think that, if our Church leaders recognized the moral malaise upon us as individuals and as an institution and directed us to the confessional (thinking that perhaps just a few of the people who receive en masse each Sunday might be eating unto their condemnation), we might be made leaven of peace for this society. And imagine if then our political leaders spent a fraction of the energy and will used in fighting terrorism to fight the deep moral problems besetting this nation, what might then happen to our country.

Evil despots have fodder for their unholy wars not because we are Christian but because we are not. Not even in the Church. If it were not so, the devil would have no door through which to enter and cause a fear of death, easily breaking down men's unwashed souls. We would be [a people] of love and so celebrating that, if persecution should then come to us, we were worthy of suffering for the Lord. But as it is, we stand confused, alone, apart from the Lord — without the grace his Bride on earth does offer.

JAMES KURT Jersey City, New Jersey

Pray for Peace, Support the War

Your editorial “Working to Stop the War” (March 16-22) rightly refers to what ought to bind the Catholic conscience but fails to command assent on American Catholics’ duty with respect to Iraq.

The arguments of the many Catholic bishops you cite in support of your position bear striking resemblance to those of countless leftist academics, Hollywood luminaries and misguided “allies” whose financial interests in the current Iraqi regime compel them to disdain any change to it and whose evident anti-Americanism impels them to compound their error in judgment. This position is uninstructive for a practical understanding of what must be done — and something must be done — to confront Iraq.

All reasonable people pray for peace, preferring peace to war. In the interest of international security, an end to Iraqi tyranny, the domestic security of the United States and the furtherance of the legitimate offensive against terrorism, war is necessary and inevitable. The United States does not require U.N. authorization to pursue its own national interests; we are a sovereign nation.

Nor does the growing international coalition require further U.N. authorization, as the Security Council's unanimous agreement on Resolution 1441 and other resolutions authorize this enforcement.

While faithful American Catholics continue to pray for peace as the Holy Father encourages, the more discerning among us also brace prayerfully for this just war. To this extent, you are correct that we need not choose between our Pope and our president, as there is harmony among their positions. This harmony reflects the binding nature of the Church's pronouncements on matters of faith and morals, and our appreciation of the demands of political prudence, about which the Church is admittedly unable to make binding pronouncements.

Therefore, the time is now for the National Catholic Register — and American Catholics — to acknowledge our duty to render unto Caesar what is Caesar's and unto God what is his: Pray for peace in the world, and support the president in this just war against tyranny and terrorism, on all fronts, and in building the foundation for peace in the world.

EDWARD O'CONNOR New Haven, Connecticut

Beating Back Bullies

Last Sunday there was an article in our local paper from the Knight-Ridder news service titled “Iraq's exiles in Jordan recall fear under Saddam.” It tells a very human side of Saddam's evil. It relates how one woman for failing to meet her quota of donations was badly beaten along with her family. Another woman tells how she was forced into prostitution at some of the regime's elite parties. Both women believe their newborn children were killed because “the regime needed expendable children as a propaganda tool to combat United Nations economic sanctions against Iraq.” There have been enough stories surfacing like this one for one to believe it is true. One only needs to read the biography of Stalin to understand that these things do occur in this world.

The Catholic Church teaches that we all have consciences and, properly cultivated, they are the truth we need to follow. My question is this: If you were walking down an alley and you saw some, for lack of a better word, bully kill a woman's child and rape her, what would your conscience demand?

I know what would be required of me and I would pray that the Lord would give me the strength and courage to stop the evil. I only hope that if it was your wife that was in that alley that at the very least you would be appreciative of what I was trying to accomplish.

DON MOGA Chippewa Falls, Wisconsin

Older and Less Secure

Regarding “Aging America” (Facts of Life, March 9-15):

The big reason 20% of the population will soon be over 65 is because the United States has killed more than 40 million in legalized abortion. Those children will not be around to pay social security to support that 20%.

Another sad fact of the abortion sin!

FATHER JOHN R. LONG Rib Lake, Wisconsin

Upside-Down World

After reading “Canadian Laws Pit Freedom Against ‘Homosexual Rights”” (March 16-22) and many other articles, I have concluded that society has slid down the slippery slope. Homosexuals want to get married; heterosexuals only want to live together.

God help us all.

DEANNA CHARVES Marlborough, Massachusetts