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(Good) Catholics' views on Lt. Ehren Watada, Iraq war

By Matt Abbott
Catholic Online

I thought I’d ask some solidly orthodox Catholics to comment on Army Lieutenant Ehren Watada’s refusal to be deployed to Iraq because of his objection to the war.

The following are slightly-edited statements on the matter from three Catholic priests and three Catholic lay persons:

Father Tom Euteneuer:

“We have to believe in the fundamental right of conscientious objection in any field. It is especially important in the fight against the world’s most vicious dictatorship, the culture of death. Lt. Watada has the right to object in conscience to a war he feels is immoral as long as he is willing to pay the price for that conscientious objection.

“What I find striking about this story is that the Army seems to have refused to grant space to this man’s conscience. They refused to re-assign him and seem to be making an example of him when they should rather be respecting his convictions. The Army is certainly big enough to accommodate people who do not wish to participate in any given war, and it hardly seems there will be a groundswell of conscientious objection to the war from within the ranks of an all-volunteer army.

“My basic point is that conscience has to be respected, and when it is not, we politicize and trivialize the moral dimension of life which is the foundation of everything. This is as true for the war in Iraq as it is in the fight against abortion. When we undermine conscience, we all lose.”

Father Jeffrey Robideau:

“I am not an expert on what constitutes a just war, but I have studied, though some time ago, the Just War Theory. From this I know that the Church has always taught that war is sometimes a necessary evil and that the state has to right to declare war against another state if certain conditions are present and one will fight according to certain rules. These can all be studied under the Just War Theory.

“The politics and bias media coverage make it difficult for any individual to determine if this is a just war or not. With this being the case, how can a Catholic make a decision as to weather or not to fight or not fight this war? In one sense, as a Catholic, we have the duty and obligation to listen to what the Church says. On the other hand, we have many leaders in the Church who fall into the trap of false charity, false forgiveness or have a modernist agenda. We cannot follow such leaders when it comes to such issues.

“We have another teaching called patriotism. Patriotism is a virtue one must develop in life. Again we have a problem. The same as we have corrupt leaders in the Church, we have corrupt leaders in the state. To whom are we to listen?

“Another teaching to come into play is that of following one's informed conscience. Again, when the information we are being feed is corrupt and bias, even with the best intention, we cannot make a good decision.

“What if we look at history? I cannot come down against Islam for their violence. We have done violence as a church also. But we have learned from our mistakes. We even teach religious tolerance now. The problem is that the Islamic nations do not seem to be willing to learn this lesson. Why? We were able to learn because violence has never been our doctrine. Violence was done by man in the name of religion. For the Muslims, violence is doctrine. They are to kill infidels (us) if they do not convert. They will not be willing to change their doctrine of the sword any more than we would be willing to change our doctrine on the Trinity.

“Also part of our history is the Crusades. We, as the Church, went to war against these same people. Why? Because they were killing our pilgrims. They were doing what Muslims do -- kill those of differing opinions on religion. We protected ourselves -- something allowed by Church teaching.

“Does any of this help? No! It is all very confusing. When there are no certain paths to take, one must make the best choice they can, having prayed and considered all the facts they can find. With this, one will also need to be willing to face consequences for his actions. The most important consequence is not from the Church or state, but from God.

“This last part is my opinion about the Iraq war. We are there for the wrong reasons, based on bad, distorted or propaganda type information. The war may have been inevitable because of the situation in the Middle East and the fact we were attacked by Muslims. Islam is more than a religion; it is also their government. So this is not a religious war, but a war between states. This allows our government the right to declare war on them. The problem is that the religion is not constrained by geographic boundaries. We must ask then, where are we willing to take this war, including ...

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