Sunday, March 18, 2007

Letter to Editor of First Things

Country Club Catholics like George Weigel have often criticized "cafeteria Catholics" for their attitudes regarding the Church's teaching on sexual conduct. But the Country-Clubbers are merely insouciant over different issues. Weigel's essay on the Just War teachings of the Church is a case in point. (FT, April 2007)

First, one looks in vain for an acknowledgement that both Pope Benedict XVI and his illustrious predecessor condemned the U.S. invasion of Iraq. JPII worked tirelessly to convince leaders on the UN Security Council to oppose the Bush war resolution on Iraq - earning worldwide admiration. But in Weigel's [piece, the Catholic dissent is merely glossed in a reference to the "Society of Christian Ethics and the Catholic Theological Society of America."

Second, Weigel blurs the intellectual rigor of Catholic Just War teachings in his long preamble about James Turner Johnson's "right intention." Besides paving the road to hell, "right intention" undermines the entire purpose of Just War theory. It removes the focus from submission to objective criteria to the realm of subjective wishes.

Weigel's piece continues this declension from rationality to rationalization. His paragraphs are loaded with slogans - "democracy, freedom and prosperity" (out side) or "wrath, victimization and false pretenders" (their side). Weigel, after pausing to acknowledge the strategic, military and bureaucratic blunders of the United States in Iraq, launches into the real heart of his piece: that is, blame Iraq and the Middle East. Thus he condemns the region for its unstable, corrupt and unresponsible governments, while at the same time comparing it to the "ideological enemy with global ambitions" of the 1940's.

It's called having it both ways. Weigel's toadying to Caesarism is a livid reminder of why the Gospel is important (cf esp Matt 6:24 and 7:4) and why Just War teaching is necessary. This Gospel and this Just War teaching - along with the constraints of international law which American aggression has done so much to undermine - are truly the 'Last Things.'

Now must the 'Last Things' be raised against 'First Things' - in witness against the terrible deterioration of reason and empathy exhibited by this piece, and against the Trojan Horse of neoconservatism which Pastor Neuhaus and George Weigel have brought into the Catholic Church.

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