The USCCB Website has a whole directory of statements that the USCCB or its officers made regarding the Iraq War. Most just state the moral considerations without issuing judgment, one way or the other. In a February 2004 summary statement, “the bishops” state the following (quoting another document, but I clicked through the documents in the archive and couldn’t find this exact passage anywhere else):
Our bishops’ conference continues to question the moral legitimacy of any preemptive, unilateral use of military force to overthrow the government of Iraq. To permit preemptive or preventive uses of military force to overthrow threatening or hostile regimes would create deeply troubling moral and legal precedents. Based on the facts that are known, it is difficult to justify resort to war against Iraq, lacking clear and adequate evidence of an imminent attack of a grave nature or Iraq’s involvement in the terrorist attacks of September 11. With the Holy See and many religious leaders throughout the world, we believe that resort to war would not meet the strict conditions in Catholic teaching for the use of military force. These statements, along with educational and prayer resources, were disseminated widely and received considerable media attention. In addition, the leadership of the USCCB met with National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice on Iraq in May and September 2002, and March 2003. The USCCB also assisted with special papal envoy Cardinal Pio Laghi’s visit to Washington to meet with President Bush on March 5, 2003.
So, the most they would say on Iraq is that they questioned the moral legitimacy of the conflict, and they note throughout these statements the criteria that need to be met. They echoed with John Paul II the call for Saddam Hussein to disarm and cooperate with the international community. They recognized the threat he posed. They insisted that a US invasion of Iraq needed to have significant international support. Fine and dandy.
I’m mostly anti-war; there’s no secret of that. I battled my conscience over Iraq for years and decided that, even while there was some warrant, the case made for the war was the wrong one, the Vatican was clearly displeased with the war, and many of the methods employed in the war have been unjust.
The USCCB is notoriously anti-war, so in some respects it’s surprising they reserved judgment and did not make an overt statement against the war in Iraq–at least not at that point (2004).
So, cut to 2011, when Barack Obama decides Kennedy/Vietnam-style that he can just send troops into another country’s civil war without congressional approval. Cut to 2011, when Barack Obama, the president of Peace, Hope and Change, goes to war with absolutely no deliberation (Bush very clearly deliberated) and with not clear threat to US security. And, while everyone insisted a war in Iraq would be “for oil,” there is no clear link between Iraq and US oil (most of the oil we import actually comes from Venezuela), but there is a link with Libya (most European oil comes from Libya).
Now, noting that it is not an absolute judgment, the current head of the USCCB’s office for “justice and Peace” says that the invasion of Libya “appears to meet” the standards for Just War!!!
He says that the attack of a dictator on his own civilians is the same as an invasion–a principle many of us can agree with–yet why was no similar statement made about Iraq???