LE had a moment with Edward Cardinal Egan on Jan. 21 at St. Agnes Church in Manhattan, asking the former Archbishop of New York if he had tacitly supported the Iraq war? He said that he “opposed the war from the begining — it was wrong” and because of his view, he said he was “never invited back to the White House.”

In the days before the March 19, 2003 invasion of Iraq, President George W. Bush lobbied to get Catholics to support the war. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice met on March 3 with four Catholic Bishops, including Cardinal Egan.

Pope John Paul II was unambiguously opposed to military action in Iraq, and sent an emissary — Cardinal Pio Laghi to meet with Bush on March 5, and communicate the Pope’s position on the matter. After his meeting with President Bush, Cardinal Laghi said (according to the LA Times) that a war would be “illegal and unjust.”

Unfortunately, some prominent American Catholics went along with — even encouraged the war effort, including George Weigel a colleague of Paul Wolfowitz. On two occasions in the last two years LE asked George Weigel if he had any regrets over supporting the Iraq war. He said “no.”

The United States Conference Of Catholic Bishops seemed at the time to want to have it both ways. In a statement issued on March 19, 2003, Most Reverend Wilton Gregory writes: “While we have warned of the potential moral dangers of embarking on this war, we have also been clear that there are no easy answers. War has serious consequences, so could the failure to act. People of good will may and do disagree on how to interpret just war teaching and how to apply just war norms to the controverted facts of this case.”

A statement from the Vatican Information Service on March 16, 2003 stated: “During today’s Angelus, Pope John Paul II issued his strongest appeal yet to the United Nations Security Council to forgo the use of arms in Iraq.” 

The history of relations between the American Catholic Church and the Vatican over the past 50 years has included dissent on doctrine, faith and morals — with consequences effecting persons and society. The result is the American Catholic Church is not “alive and well” as some would suggest, but rather is realing — with Catholic churches, hospitals, and schools closing every day, and American society in decline.

Top Photograph: Stephen Wise