Catholic Group Visits Iraq for Anti-War Protests
July 7, 2008
(CNSNews.com) - A delegation of priests, nuns and Roman Catholic lay people is expected in Iraq Tuesday for the beginning of a series of demonstrations against a possible U.S. invasion of that Middle-Eastern country.
The delegation is made up of members of Pax Christi USA, which has no formal recognition or endorsement from the Catholic Church, but which labels itself as the "national Catholic peace movement."
Also, Tuesday, Pax Christi USA will join with more than 70 other groups in a coalition entitled "United for Peace" in conducting rallies, peace vigils and teach-ins all across the United States. The coalition is proclaiming Dec. 10 International Human Rights Day.
Among the groups allied with Pax Christi are the House of The Goddess Center for Pagan Wombyn, which is devoted to "anarcha-feminism," including lesbianism and witchcraft; People Against Oppression and War (PAOW), which has a "shared anarchist vision for earth;" and the Black Radical Congress.
Michael Jones, spokesman for Pax Christi USA, said his group neither condones, nor disagrees with the policies of the other organizations involved in United for Peace.
"Some of them are left[ist] but some of them are by no means leftist or liberal in their philosophies," Jones said. "It's a broad mix of different organizations, different peace groups, different justice organizations. We happen to be one of them."
Pax Christi USA is a division of Pax Christi International, which began as a non-profit Catholic peace movement at the end of World War II, according to the group's website. Today, Pax Christi USA boasts of 14,000 members, including more than 140 U.S. Catholic bishops.
Gerard Powers, spokesman for the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, confirmed that there is no formal relationship between Pax Christi USA and the bishops' conference, despite the fact that so many of the bishops belong to Pax Christi. He was also initially reluctant to comment on Pax Christi's activities.
"The Catholic bishops' conference would not ... take an official position on the individual activities of the many, many, many groups that are out there ... Catholic groups, official, unofficial. It's not our business to give a Good Housekeeping seal of approval to every activity that these groups are involved in," Powers said.
Powers said the Catholic bishops and Pax Christi USA disagree over whether there might be justification for the U.S. to attack Iraq. While Jones insisted there are no conditions under which a war could be justified, Powers explained that the Catechism of the Catholic Church does include conditions for a "just war."
"If there's an imminent, clear and present danger of an attack -- that fits into self-defense," Powers said. "You don't have to wait until they attack you." However, Powers said the Catholic bishops are concerned that the Bush administration's response to "merely a potential threat" might create "a troubling moral and legal precedent."
Louis Giovino, director of communications for the Catholic League for Religious and Civil Rights, said the "strict pacifism" that Pax Christi USA espouses "is almost immoral because that allows evil. If you were a strict pacifist in World War II, you wouldn't fight Hitler and that allowed him to kill Jews."
Giovino also questioned Pax Christi's credibility as a Catholic group, for refusing to take a position on one of the Vatican's most important policies.
"If they claim to be Catholic and they don't want a position on abortion, something's fishy," Giovino said. "They cloak themselves in virtue, they cloak themselves in convenient Catholic teachings ... well I've known people who personally confronted Pax Christi for what their stance on abortion is and they have nothing to do with abortion. They don't want any stand on abortion."
Pax Christi's eleven-person delegation to Iraq was to leave New York Sunday and arrive in Baghdad on Tuesday. The group of six women and five men will hold what they call "A Day of Solidarity With Our Iraqi Brothers and Sisters" on Dec. 15.
Their visit to Iraq follows the Iraqi government's submission of a 12,000-page report over the weekend, detailing its chemical, biological and nuclear weapons programs.
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