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Just War Criteria & the Crisis in the Persian Gulf


By Roger Mahony | January-February 1991
Roger Mahony is the Archbishop of Los Angeles.

Ed. Note: On November 12, during its general meeting in Washington, D.C., the full body of Catholic bishops of the U.S. affirmed Archbishop Mahony’s letter (dated November 7) and made that letter its own statement. The entire text of the let­ter follows.

Dear Mr. President:

I write as Chairman of the International Policy Committee of the U.S. Catholic Confer­ence to share several concerns and criteria regarding possible use of U.S. military force in the Persian Gulf. As Catholic bishops we are deeply concerned about the human conse­quences of the crisis — the lives already lost or those that could be lost in a war, the free­dom denied to hostages, the victims of aggres­sion, and the many families divided by the demands of military service. As religious teachers, we are concerned about the moral dimensions of the crisis — the need to resist brutal aggression, to protect the innocent, to pursue both justice and peace, as well as the ethical criteria for the use of force. As U.S. cit­izens, we are concerned about how our nation can best protect human life and human rights and secure a peaceful and just resolution to the crisis.

Our Conference has thus far emphasized five basic issues in addressing the crisis:

(1) The clear need to resist aggression. We cannot permit nations to simply over­whelm others by brutal use of force.

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