Would Offensive U.S. Military Action in the Persian Gulf Be Morally Justifiable?

January-February 1991By Daniel E. Pilarczyk

Daniel E. Pilarczyk is the Archbishop of Cincinnati.

Ed. Note: The following letter, dated November 15 and written at the urging of a majority of the U. S. Catholic bishops, is presented here in abridged form.

I write as President of the National Con­ference of Catholic Bishops. The Catholic bish­ops of the United States met in our nation’s capital this week and voted to affirm and make their own the enclosed letter of Arch­bishop Roger Mahony sent to Secretary Baker on November 7 [see previous article].

We Catholic bishops are heirs of a long tradition of thought and moral reflection on issues of war and peace, including The Chal­lenge of Peace, our pastoral letter of 1983. Cath­olic teaching reflects a strong presumption against war while admitting the moral permis­sibility of the use of force under certain re­strictive conditions. These traditional “just war” criteria limit strictly the circumstances under which war may be morally justifiable and also govern the means by which war may be carried out. Now our Conference seeks to apply this tradition to the complex and chang­ing situation in the Persian Gulf. While there may be diverse points of view on the specific application of these principles, our Conference finds significant consensus on four key priori­ties:

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