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Jesuits write to President Bush

Letter reflects Catholic stance on a possible war with Iraq

11/19/02

The U.S. Jesuit Provincials sent a letter to President George W. Bush supporting the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops and many others expressing their concerns about an impending war with Iraq. "I favor global peace with global justice through global law," says Ben Urmston, S.J., director of peace and justice programs at Xavier. "Law distinguishes various degrees of guilt and innocence. War does not distinguish between the innocent and the guilty." The letter reads as follows: Dear President Bush: As the religious superiors of the 3,400 members of the Society of Jesus ("The Jesuits") in the United States, we write to express our strong moral reservations about the use of military force in Iraq. We share our government’s concern about Iraq’s possible possession and use of weapons of mass destruction, but we are not convinced that all means short of war have been exhausted. While a preemptive strike to stop an imminent attack may in theory be argued, we judge war on Iraq at this time to be a preventive war and as such to violate just-war standards and international law. We thus share the reservations expressed by Bishop Wilton Gregory, the president of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, in his letter to President Bush of Sept. 13, 2002: "Given the precedents and risks involved, we find it difficult to justify extending the war on terrorism to Iraq absent clear and adequate evidence of Iraqi involvement in the attacks of Sept. 11 or of an imminent attack of a grave nature." Based on the missionary experience of U.S. Jesuits in Iraq from 1934 to 1969, as well as continuing relationships with Iraqi alumni, we are further convinced that prospects for long-term friendly relations between the U.S. and Iraq peoples are good, but that an attack on Iraq at this time would severely damage these prospects far into the future. Our prayers are offered for you in this time of crisis, and we beg God for His gifts of wisdom, courage and compassion for you. We are asking all of our priests and brothers, our lay colleagues, and our Christian communities in 28 universities, 50 secondary and middle schools, 100 catholic parishes and others to join in prayer for our nation and our world at this time. Sincerely yours, Very Rev. Thomas Smolich, S.J. Provincial, California Province Very Rev. Richard Baumann, S.J. Provincial, Chicago Province For more information about peace and justice programs at the University, call Ben Urmston, S.J., at 513 745-3320.