US Bishops: The United States Cannot Justify Preemptive War in Iran

While politicians employ escalating political rhetoric purporting the urgency of our situation regarding Iran and how we must use preemptive military force against Iran the US Catholic Bishops have stated the contrary view that, even considering the prospect of a nuclear Iran, we cannot engage in preemptive war. That was back in 2007 when we were hearing the same hysterics about the “urgency” and the “danger” of Iran and how we must attack them before they attack us. Yet, five years later we’re all still here and while relations in the Middle East are even more precarious than ever they don’t have to be. We could drop our sanctions and initiate free trade and genuine diplomatic exchange between the United States and Iran and minimize the already exaggerated threat of Iran or we can continue to slowly give ground to fear-mongering chicken hawks endorsing immoral and, frankly, stupid policies. The US Bishops on an attack against Iran:

US Catholic Bishops have said that while the prospect of Iran developing nuclear weapons is unacceptable, in the absence an immediate threat, the USA and other nations must pursue a diplomatic solution to the present confrontation.

The message came in a letter issued by the church to US Secretary of State Condoleeza Rice late last week.

It was signed by Bishop Thomas Wenski of Orlando, Florida, on behalf of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB).

The bishops are reacting to escalating political rhetoric and news accounts speculating about a potential pre-emptive use of force against Iran, supposedly to deter further possible nuclear weapons ambitions.

“From a moral perspective,” Bishop Wenski wrote, “in the absence of an immediate threat military action would constitute an act of preventative war.”

The Catholic Church, he noted, teaches that “engaging in a preventative war without clear proof that an attack is imminent cannot fail to raise serious moral and juridical questions.”

The bishops make clear their assessment that the Iranian situation does not presently constitute an immediate threat.

Under the ‘just war’ tradition of moral reasoning, before military action could be considered, say the bishops, all non-military alternatives must be exhausted.

Options, they suggest, range from diplomatic and economic incentives, increased international involvement and cooperation, to economic sanctions.

Catholic and other Christian peacemakers say that the churches’ stance should be for nonviolence, not for the justification of military action.

The bishops have also called on US leaders to change the nations’ current nuclear posture to ensure that nuclear weapons are never used against non-nuclear threats. They have appealed for greater, more sustained progress toward nuclear disarmament in the spirit of the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty.

The full text of the Catholic bishops’ letter is available at:

Additionally, on March 2nd 2012 the U.S. bishops urged U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton to work to reduce nuclear arms and maintain security in the Middle East in a letter about Iran from Bishop Richard E. Pates of Des Moines. Bishop Pates chairs the Committee on International Justice and Peace of the United States Conference of Catholic bishops (USCCB). In the letter, Bishop Pates explicitly states that the acquisition of nuclear weapons by Iran does not justify military action:

“In Catholic teaching, the use of force must always be a last resort. Iran’s bellicose statements, its failure to be transparent about its nuclear program and its possible acquisition of nuclear weapons are serious matters, but in themselves they do not justify military action.”

“Discussing or promoting military options at this time is unwise and may be counterproductive. Actual or threatened military strikes are likely to strengthen the regime in power in Iran and would further marginalize those in Iran who want to abide by international norms. And, as the experience in Iraq teaches, the use of force can have many unintended consequences.”


2 thoughts on “US Bishops: The United States Cannot Justify Preemptive War in Iran

  1. Pingback: Combating the Death Mentality: More than just Abortion « Democrazy

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