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Bishop: Clergy Must Unite People Against War in Iraq
Published on Tuesday, October 15, 2002 by the Evansville Courier & Press (Indiana)
Bishop: Clergy Must Unite People Against War in Iraq
by Maureen Hayden

The founder of a Christian peace movement told area religious leaders Monday that it wasn't enough for them to denounce a military strike against Iraq as unjust if they want to prevent a war.

Thomas Gumbleton
Roman Catholic Bishop Thomas Gumbleton holds up a New York Times advertisement as he speaks against a possible war in Iraq. Gumbleton is an auxiliary bishop in the Diocese of Detroit.
(Courier-Press Photo/Vincent Pugilese)
They have to get the people in their pews to feel the same way, and then convince them to act on that sentiment.

"I'm confident we can build a momentum against a war,'' said Roman Catholic Bishop Thomas Gumbleton, "despite what appears to be happening in Washington right now."

Gumbleton spoke Monday afternoon to a group of more than 50 Evansville-area religious leaders who gathered at the University of Evansville's Neu Chapel to hear the longtime peace activist.

He spoke later to a more general audience at the University of Southern Indiana, explaining his opposition to the Bush administration's plans to make a pre-emptive strike against Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein.

"A war at this time would be unjust and immoral,'' said Gumbleton, founder of Pax Christi USA, the U.S. branch of an international Catholic organization that promotes nonviolence. Gumbleton told the Neu Chapel audience that President Bush has failed to make a case for the war using traditional Christian "just war" principles. Those principles, Gumbleton explained, include the requirement that war be a last resort, and that any use of deadly force meet strict moral conditions. He cited a long list of mainline religious denominations that have gone on record opposing a pre-emptive strike on Iraq as unjust - including the United Methodist Church, the Presbyterian Church (USA), the United Church of Christ, the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, the Episcopal Church and the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America. But he said church leaders have failed to convince their congregations "that a pre-emptive war cannot be justified." "We need to mobilize hundreds of thousands, even millions, of people against this war," said Gumbleton. Gumbleton encouraged the church leaders to go beyond simply preaching against the war.

"It's easy for pastors to force their opinions on people,'' said Gumbleton. "We need to preach in a such a way that we don't dominate or force our opinions on people, but instead find a way to raise questions in the hearts and minds of people...To let them come to the decision on their own." Gumbleton also said that if the argument on moral grounds doesn't take hold, try one based on what he called a "common-sense perspective."

Holding up a New York Times full-page ad that appeared Monday, he pointed to the caricature of Osama bin Laden in the ad. The al-Qaida terrorist leader is posed as the Uncle Sam character, pointing his finger, with the words, "I Want You." The ad, placed by anti-war activists, includes a list of reasons why bin Laden would want the United States to invade Iraq.

Among them is stirring up more anti-American sentiment in the Middle East, fueling a desire for revenge, dividing the international community and further destabilizing the Middle East. Gumbleton said there are still too many questions to be asked before the United States takes military action. Among them, he said, is the question, "Are we prepared for thousands of U.S. casualties in a war against a country that has no capacity to attack us? That's the kind of question we ought to be raising in our communities and our churches." Gumbleton also challenged church leaders to talk about what he believes is the real reason the Bush administration is preparing for war: to control oil reserves in Iraq.

"That's to protect our way of life,'' said Gumbleton, "our excessive consumption of oil...If that's true, that a very profound judgment on our country."

Gumbleton's visit to Evansville was sponsored by the June 1st Coalition, an Evansville-based organization of religious and peace activists. The coalition meets every second Sunday at 9 a.m. at St. Mary Catholic Church, 619 Cherry St. The group will meet Saturday to make plans to take part in an Oct. 26 anti-war rally in Washington, D.C.

Copyright © 2002 The E.W. Scripps Co


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