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U.S. Bishop's Statement on Iraq

1/14/2006 - 5:00 AM PST

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"Addressing Questions Is Both Necessary and Patriotic"

WASHINGTON, D.C., JAN. 14, 2006 (Zenit) - Here is the full text of Bishop Thomas Wenski's statement "Toward a Responsible Transition in Iraq," released today.

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Toward a Responsible Transition in Iraq
A Statement of Bishop Thomas G. Wenski
Bishop of Orlando
Chairman, USCCB Committee on International Policy

The Challenge in Iraq

As we begin a new year and almost three years after the initiation of war, the situation in Iraq remains complex, uncertain, and dangerous -- for the Iraqi people, for the region, for our nation, and for our military personnel. The war's toll is measured in lives lost and many more injured, in persistent violence and insurgency, and in the daily struggles of Iraqis to build a future for their torn nation. Our Conference of bishops mourns the deaths of more than 2,100 of our nation's sons and daughters and of tens of thousands of Iraqis. We share the pain of the countless numbers of persons who have been injured and maimed and of those whose lives will never be the same. There have been achievements. A dictator has been deposed and elections have been held, but the human and social costs of these achievements must be recognized.

There is no simple or easy way forward. Stability remains elusive and rebuilding efforts are uneven, inadequate and frequently undermined by the lack of security. Our Conference is encouraged by the courage and determination of so many Iraqis who voted in the recent parliamentary elections. We hope these elections will be an important step forward, but everyone acknowledges that the elections represent just one step along a long road.

As bishops and pastors, we seek to offer some moral reflections to help guide our nation along the difficult road ahead. While we recognize that people of goodwill may disagree with specific prudential judgments that we offer, our religious tradition calls us to shine the light of faith and the Church's social teaching on the moral dimensions of the future choices that lie ahead. We hope our reflections will contribute to a serious and civil national dialogue to help our nation chart a way forward that responds to both the moral and human dimensions of the situation in Iraq.

The Challenge to Dialogue

Our bishops' Conference regrets that discussions regarding Iraq have too often led to unproductive debates that are marked by polarization and political posturing on many sides. It is important for all to recognize that addressing questions regarding the decisions that led us to war, and about the conduct of the war and its aftermath, is both necessary and patriotic. It is equally important that these questions be discussed with civility so that necessary reflection and careful deliberation are not lost in a barrage of attacks and counterattacks. Instead our nation needs serious and civil discussions of alternatives that emphasize planning for a responsible transition in Iraq. Our Conference hopes that this statement can help contribute to such dialogue.

Since so much is at stake for Iraq, for our nation, for the region and for our world, our nation cannot allow justifications of past positions and partisan attacks on others to replace real, sustained, serious and civil debate. Dialogue is not advanced by challenging the motives or integrity of others or by over-simplifying the challenges we face.

Today some see virtually no progress in Iraq and argue for rapid strategic withdrawal. Others see enormous progress and call for continued and steady engagement. Our Conference rejects any assessment of the reality that is either too pessimistic or too optimistic. Our nation cannot afford a shrill and shallow debate that distorts reality and reduces the options to "cut and run" versus "stay the course." Instead we need a forthright discussion that begins with an honest assessment of the situation in Iraq and acknowledges both the mistakes that have been made and the signs of hope that have appeared. Most importantly, an honest assessment of our moral responsibilities toward Iraq should commit our nation to a policy of responsible transition.

The Moral Challenge

It is well known that our bishops' Conference repeatedly expressed grave moral concerns about the military intervention in Iraq and the unpredictable and uncontrollable negative consequences of an invasion and occupation. Similar concerns were articulated powerfully by Pope John Paul II and the Holy See. The events of the past three years, the absence of evidence of weapons of mass destructions and the continuing violence and unrest in Iraq have reinforced those ethical concerns. In light of the moral criteria of the just war tradition, our Conference remains highly skeptical of the concept of "preventive war." As the Compendium of the Social Doctrine of the ...

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