Last week, (12/6) to be exact, Peter Robinson at The Corner gave the results of a call he'd sent out, asking for evidence that the Pope had ever explicitly condemned the War in Iraq or the US conduct of it. He claimed that no such evidence could be had, and, among other points, linked to this partial compilation of quotes. He also made the point that the statements of Vatican officials like Sodano, Martino, Etchegaray (especially Etchegaray!) et, al, don't count, because they are not the Pope. Obviously.
Below, in a comment, Patrick Sweeney of the excellent Extreme Catholic, repeats the question:
I've asked the contributors to this blog and elsewhere to quote a statement of the Holy Father which condemns the United States in its conduct of the war Iraq commencing 3/2003 or supports the continuity of the Saddam regime.
I am wondering what the purpose of this question, posed by Robinson and Patrick, is. On one hand, I see the value of clarification - always - in this case, of sweeping statements like, "The Pope condemned the US for the War in Iraq" - which is, of course, an untrue statement. That kind of misconstruction of reality needs to be corrected.
But it seems to me that there's an implication here of the opposite supposition...that somehow we're supposed to infer that if the Pope didn't explicitly condemn the Bush administration's choices in specific terms...he was supportive.
This, too, misses the point. One of the handiest guides to this matter is in the lengthy chapter John Allen provides in All the Pope's Men, in which he very helpfully runs down every statement made by every Vatican official and the Holy Father in the run-up to the war and afterwards.
No, we don't find (on the Pope's part) an explicit condemnation. But what we do find is a completely different mindset than the Bush administration or even most of us have, and one at the time, if we're honest, drove many observers nuts.
For what the Holy Father talked about in those weeks leading up to war, and afterwards - was peace and the negative impact of war. He constantly prayed for peace and after the war began, for those innocents suffering from the consequences of war. It was a very single-minded focus - not on overthrowing an oppressive regime, not on securing greater freedom for the people of Iraq via violent overthrow of that regime...but on avoiding war and violence.
There's a lot to pick apart here, as was done quite vigorously in the blogosphere and in the papers, of course. But let's be careful not to rewrite history, even by implication.
March 24, 2003 (to a group of military chaplains)
"The thought of the vicitms and the destruction and suffering caused by armed conflict brings ever-deeper anxiety and great sorrow. By now, it should be clear to all that the use of war as a means of resolving disputes between States was rejected, even before the UN Charter, by the consciences of the majority of humanity, except in the case of legitimate defense against an aggressor..."
March 30, 2003 (Sunday Angelus address)
"We hear this comforting proclamation at a time when painful armed confrontation threatens the hope of humanity for a better future..."
April 6, 2003 (Sunday Angelus address)
"My thoughts go in particular to Iraq and to all those involved in the war that is being waged there. I am thinking in a special way of the defenseless civilian pouplation in various cities which is subjected to a harsh trial."