Catholic silence on involvement in Middle East called ‘massive failure’

"The most massive failure of the Catholic community at all levels in the past 20 years has been to address the question of our ongoing involvement in the Middle East," according to San Diego Bishop Robert W. McElroy.

"What is particularly fascinating and troubling is all three recent popes were clearly opposed to the wars, yet at no level in the Catholic community was there any major opposition or sustained witness," he said. "It's like the dog that didn't bark."

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He spoke March 7 at a forum in New York sponsored by Commonweal magazine on the topic "Prophecy Without Contempt" and in a subsequent interview with Catholic News Service.

Bishop McElroy said there has been no sustained discussion or opposition in society as a whole, as two wars dragged on to become the longest in American history. He attributed the lack of discourse to the absence of a military draft and the subsequent distancing of the fighting from the consciousness of the people.

"The suffering is not here," he said. Paraphrasing historian David Kennedy, the bishop said, "America has created a capacity to fight wars endlessly because the cost to U.S. society is small, not wrenching, in terms of casualties and as a portion of the U.S. economy."

All three popes opposed U.S. participation in these wars, he said, but "at all levels, the Catholic community has been virtually silent."

The prophecy on the war issue has occurred in the Middle East, he said, where all parties have articulated that the region has been subjected to great tragedies, the bishop said.

Bishop McElroy said the attack on the Muslim community in the United States is "a great outrage."

"The Muslim question is an alarm bell about authoritarianism in society. That's not just a disagreement. It's an alarm bell that goes to the core of who we are as a nation and absolutely needs to be repudiated in the strongest possible way by everybody," Bishop McElroy said.

The anger dominating the current political climate is a sign of disenfranchisement and the feeling of not being listened to by the elites, Bishop McElroy said.

"When significant sectors of working-class white America feel disenfranchised, that's a problem, and this gets played upon in a troubling way," he said.

"Anger that turns into division should always be challenged," the bishop said. "What we're witnessing now is an anger that's meant to divide, to be purposefully destructive of the social fabric of society. It's not anger that is meant simply to redress grievances."

Bishop McElroy said many white Catholic working-class men and women feel shut out of the political process. The Democratic Party, which was their home for so long is inhospitable, "on certain issues that are of interest, and there's just no give."

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William Rydberg
1 year 10 months ago
The issue the Bishop points out is a symptom, which stems from the fact that there has been little individual discernment on these important issues. One would think that the best course of action would be a comprehensive review of the state of Catechetics in the Conference. Unless people have been trained to step back and discern, or at least had some exposure to these Catholic Tools in practicum. It's in one ear and out the other. As an aside, I live in a geographic area on all sides covered by World-Class Jesuit Retreat Centres, but one would be hard pressed to find a course or retreat that teaches something as simple as the Examen. For those that recollect Jesuit Formation, it was used extensively for many years. But in my opinion died out in the 1980's. Result: Top-down Catholicism. Insufficient sense of connection to the Blessed Trinity, lack of perception of God's goodness and forgiveness, no sense of what what an authentic Catholic moral conscience is, and a lack of awareness as to the affects of Concupiscence, let alone articulate a prayer to God for help and strength.... Just my opinion...
Robert Lewis
1 year 9 months ago
I'll tell you about something else that seems to be a part of Protestant-Millenarian support of the American violations of "just war" teachings in the context of our policies regarding the Middle East: the complete failure of the Catholic Church in America to defend her own co-religionists from the persecutions they endure at the hands of the Zionist State. And it isn't just Catholic Palestinian Arabs, either: read the two chapters about Israel in William Dalrymple's expose of the disappearance from the so-called "Holy Land" of its Christian populations. In those two chapters of "To the Holy Mountain"--the only one of Dalrymple's books to be panned by American reviewers--he exposes the active persecution of Catholic and Orthodox institutions by representatives of the Zionist State.
Eugene Fitzpatrick
1 year 9 months ago
Robert Lewis' bringing up this point is appreciated. Through the decades the American Catholic leadership's cowardly silence regarding Israel's ongoing rape of Palestine has been supportive of this criminality. Most American Catholics have done nothing to help their fellow Christians in Palestine. They stand on the sidelines unconcerned while the Israeli Jews savage Bethlehem. They could care less that through the decades Israel has treated Christian Palestinians with utter contempt and inhumanity while carrying on its determined efforts to de-Christianize the Holy Land. To my knowledge the only American Catholic organizations fighting for justice in Palestine are Pax Christi and a group of Maryknollers. Some isolated members of the USCCB may have spoken out also but the Bishops generally suffer from lockjaw on this issue.
Charles Erlinger
1 year 9 months ago
I would like to unpack Bishop McElroy's comments and sort them into policy and strategy contexts. 1. "Bishop McElroy said there has been no sustained discussion or opposition in society as a whole, as two wars dragged on to become the longest in American history. 2. "He attributed the lack of discourse to the absence of a military draft and the subsequent distancing of the fighting from the consciousness of the people. 3. "The suffering is not here," he said. 4. "Paraphrasing historian David Kennedy, the bishop said, 'America has created a capacity to fight wars endlessly because the cost to U.S. society is small, not wrenching, in terms of casualties and as a portion of the U.S. economy'." 5. "All three popes opposed U.S. participation in these wars, he said, but "at all levels, the Catholic community has been virtually silent." 6. "The prophecy on the war issue has occurred in the Middle East, he said, where all parties have articulated that the region has been subjected to great tragedies, the bishop said." The theme throughout these enumerated excerpts from the Article is that war in the Middle East is a bad state of affairs and, by inference, the U.S. Policy objective, or desired end-state, is or should be peace there. That takes planning. A plan to achieve a policy objective is a collection of concrete steps known as a strategy. A strategy is not a series of steps, but a collection, because while one step should prepare for or enable another, a collection of such interdependent steps might consist in several parallel series. Because a strategy is concrete, it is necessarily contingent, subject to failure of one or more of its planned steps, and to unintended consequences even if the planned steps succeed as planned. And a strategy's very concreteness requires that the end-state toward which it is aimed be concretely recognizable, but not necessarily as concrete as a strategy. Excerpts 1, 5 and 6 all have to do with talking. Talking, whether it be in the form of "sustained discussion or opposition" or "popes opposed" or "prophesy on the war issue" is one step in a strategy, but a relatively low value one in terms of contributing to a recognizable end state at which to aim. Excerpts 2, 3 and 4 are causal speculations about why the talking step has not been executed. One has to acknowledge that talking helps to communicate a vision, which is necessary to formulate a recognizable end-state. If that is what is being advocated, then that is worth talking about, even if it is only a beginning step. But if peace is the objective, peace comes about as a consequence of enabling conditions which must be articulated and about which consent and consensus must be obtained. If that is what is being advocated, then much more content must be loaded into the talk. Attributing a lack of talking to the absence of a draft, as a single-factor cause, is, however, quite a stretch.

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