Blessed are they who mourn, for they will be comforted....Blessed are they who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be satisfied. Blessed are the merciful, for they will be shown mercy.... Blessed are the peacemakers, For they will be called children of God. Mt. 5:4,6,7,9
These words of Jesus challenge us and offer us hope today as our community of faith responds to the terrible events of September 11 and their aftermath. As Catholic Bishops, we offer words of consolation, criteria for moral discernment, and a call to action and solidarity in these troubling and challenging times.
After September 11, we are a wounded people. We share loss and pain, anger and fear, shock and determination in the face of these attacks on our nation and all humanity. We also honor the selflessness of firefighters, police, chaplains, and other brave individuals who gave their lives in the service of others. They are true heroes and heroines.
In these difficult days, our faith has lifted us up and sustained us. Our nation turned to God in prayer and in faith with a new intensity. This was evident on cell phones on hijacked airliners, on stairways in doomed towers, in cathedrals and parish churches, at ecumenical and interfaith services, in our homes and hearts. Our faith teaches us about good and evil, free will and responsibility. Jesus' life, teaching, death and resurrection show us the meaning of love and justice in a broken world. Sacred Scripture and traditional ethical principles define what it means to make peace. They provide moral guidance on how the world should respond justly to terrorism in order to reestablish peace and order.
The events of September 11 were unique in their scale, but they were not isolated. Sadly, our world is losing respect for human life. Those who committed these atrocities do not distinguish between ordinary civilians and military combatants, and there is the threat of possible terrorist use of chemical, biological and nuclear weapons in the future.
The dreadful deeds of September 11 cannot go unanswered. We continue to urge resolve, restraint and greater attention to the roots of terrorism to protect against further attacks and to advance the global common good. Our nation must continue to respond in many ways, including diplomacy, economic measures, effective intelligence, more focus on security at home, and the legitimate use of force. In our response to attacks on innocent civilians, we must be sure that we do not violate the norms of civilian immunity and proportionality. We believe every life is precious whether a person works at the World Trade Center or lives in Afghanistan. The traditional moral norms governing the use of force still apply, even in the face of terrorism on this scale.
No grievance, no matter what the claim, can legitimate what happened on September 11. Without in any way excusing indefensible terrorist acts, we still need to address those conditions of poverty and injustice which are exploited by terrorists. A successful campaign against terrorism will require a combination of resolve to do what is necessary to see it through, restraint to ensure that we act justly, and a long term focus on broader issues of justice and peace.
In these brief reflections, we seek to articulate traditional Catholic teaching as a guide for our people and nation, offering a moral framework, rather than a series of specific judgements on rapidly changing events. We believe our faith brings consolation, insight and hope in these challenging days.
The war-like acts of September 11 were appalling attacks on our nation, our citizens and citizens of many other countries. The Holy Father rightly called these acts crimes against humanity. Terrorism is not a new problem, but this terrorist threat is unique because of its global dimensions and the sheer magnitude of the terror its authors are willing and able to unleash. It is also new for us because we have not experienced war-like acts of violence on our own soil for many decades.
The role of religion We are particularly troubled that some who engage in and support this new form of terror seek to justify it, in part, as a religious act. Regrettably, the terrorists' notion of a religious war is inadvertently reinforced by those who would attribute the extremism of a few to Islam as a whole or who suggest that religion, by its nature, is a source of conflict.
It is wrong to use religion as a cover for political, economic or ideological causes. It compounds the wrong when extremists of any religious tradition radically distort their professed faith in order to justify violence and hatred. Whatever the motivation, there can be no religious or moral justification for what happened on September 11. People of all faiths must be united in the conviction that terrorism in the name of religion profanes religion. The most effective counter to terrorist claims of religious justification comes from within the world's rich religious traditions and from the witness of so many people of faith who have been a powerful force for non-violent human liberation around the world.
A deeper appreciation of the role that religion plays in world affairs is needed, as is a deeper understanding of and engagement with Islam. The Catholic community is engaged in dialogue and common projects with Muslims at many levels and in many ways in this country and around the world. To cite just one example, in many countries Catholic Relief Services is involved in fruitful collaboration with Muslim organizations committed to peace, justice and human rights. More should be done at all levels to deepen and broaden this dialogue and common action.
The duty to preserve the common good, protect the innocent, and reestablish peace and order Our nation, in collaboration with other nations and organizations, has a moral right and a grave obligation to defend the common good against mass terrorism. The common good is threatened when innocent people are targeted by terrorists. Therefore, we support efforts of our nation and the international community to seek out and hold accountable, in accord with national and international law, those individuals, groups and governments which are responsible. How the common good is defended and peace is restored is a critical moral issue. While military action may be necessary, it is by no means sufficient to deal with this terrorist threat. From bolstering homeland security and ensuring greater transparency of the financial system to strengthening global cooperation against terrorism, a wide range of non-military measures must be pursued. Among these measures is a persistent effort to pursue negotiations that would work to protect the interests of both Afghanistan and the United States.
Considerable sacrifice by all will be needed if this broad-based, long-term effort in defense of the common good is to succeed. We must never lose sight, however, of the basic ideals of justice, freedom, fairness, and openness that are hallmarks of our society. We must not trade freedom for security. We must not allow ourselves to be captured by fear. Acts of ethnic and religious intolerance towards Arab-Americans, Muslims, or any other minorities must be repudiated. It is the glory of our nation that out of many, we are one.
As criminal and civil investigations proceed and essential security measures are strengthened, our government must continue to respect the basic rights of all persons and in a special way of immigrants and refugees. Care must be taken to avoid assigning collective guilt to all newcomers or undermine our history as a land of immigrants and a safe haven for the world's persecuted. The United States must not shrink from its global leadership role in offering protection to refugees who flee terror in their homelands. Proposals to ensure the security of our legal immigration system and refugee program must avoid harming immigrants and refugees who represent no security threat. Enforcement actions must not be indiscriminate in their application or based upon ethnic background, national origin, or religious affiliation. The suspension of refugee admissions is particularly inappropriate.
The use of military force As part of its broader effort to combat terrorism, our nation has undertaken military action in Afghanistan and may be considering intervention elsewhere. As we pray for our service men and women who are risking their lives and for all those in Afghanistan who are suffering, we also consider how the Church's long and rich tradition of ethical reflection on war and peace might help guide the momentous decisions being taken.
National leaders bear a heavy moral obligation to see that the full range of non-violent means is employed. We acknowledge, however, the right and duty of a nation and the international community to use military force if necessary to defend the common good by protecting the innocent against mass terrorism. Because of its terrible consequences, military force, even when justified and carefully executed, must always be undertaken with a sense of deep regret.
Every military response must be in accord with sound moral principles, notably such norms of the just war tradition as non-combatant immunity, proportionality, right intention and probability of success. [See Appendix]
Even if the cause is just, the grave moral obligation to respect the principles of non-combatant immunity and proportionality remains in force and must govern our nation's political and military decisions. Indiscriminate attacks on innocent people, whether by terrorists or in war, threaten the common good. The continuing priority must be to ensure that military force is directed at those who use terror and those who assist them, not at the Afghan people or Islam. We welcome the stated commitment to do everything possible to avoid civilian casualties, a commitment that must be sustained over the long-term. We must not only act justly but be perceived as acting justly if we are to succeed in winning popular support against terrorism.
In light of the Church's teaching that the use of arms must not produce disorders graver than the evil to be eliminated, the effect of military action on the Afghan people must be closely monitored on an ongoing basis. At the same time, there is a special need to maintain and fortify our efforts to do everything possible to address the long-standing humanitarian crisis in Afghanistan, especially the risk of mass suffering and starvation this winter. This humanitarian effort should continue to be primarily in response to the overwhelming human need rather than in the service of military and political objectives. The United States and other nations have a moral responsibility to continue aid to Afghan refugees and displaced persons and to assist them in returning to their homes in safety where possible, or offer them other durable solutions.
We must do what we can to work with the United Nations and all interested parties to help Afghans rebuild the political, economic, and cultural life of their country after this war is over. The actions of our nation and other nations must ensure a just war now and a just peace later.
Probability of success is particularly difficult to measure in dealing with an amorphous, global terrorist network. Therefore, special attention must be given to developing criteria for when it is appropriate to end military action in Afghanistan.
Policy makers and all citizens must struggle with serious moral questions and make informed judgments about how our nation can respond justly to a terrifying threat. While we have offered our own judgment about aspects of this question, we recognize that application of moral principles in this situation requires the exercise of the virtue of prudence. Some Christians profess a position of principled non-violence, which holds that non-military means are the only legitimate way to respond in this case. This is a valid Christian response. While respecting this position and maintaining a strong presumption against the use of force, the Church has sanctioned the use of the moral criteria for a just war to allow the use of force by legitimate authority in self-defense and as a last resort. Those who subscribe to the just war tradition can differ in their prudential judgments about its interpretation or its application.
True peacemaking can be a matter of policy only if it is first a matter of the heart. Without both courage and charity, justice cannot be won. In the absence of repentance and forgiveness, no peace can endure. We need to do more to share the Church's teaching on war and peace, and to foster Christian communities where peaceable virtues can take root and be nourished. We need to nurture among ourselves faith and hope to strengthen our spirits by placing our trust in God, rather than in ourselves; courage and compassion that move us to action; humility and kindness so that we can put the needs and interests of others ahead of our own; patience and perseverance to endure the long struggle for justice; and civility and charity so that we can treat others with respect and love.
Pursuing Justice and Peace After September 11 September 11 made ever more clear that globalization is a reality requiring greater moral scrutiny. If the problems of Afghanistan or Central Asia seemed irrelevant to Americans before, that is no longer the case. Our nation, as a principal force for economic globalization, must do more to spread the benefits of globalization to all, especially the world's poorest. The injustice and instability in far away lands about which we know too little can have a direct impact on our own sense of peace and security. Maintaining a strong military is only one component of our national security. A much broader, long-term understanding of security is needed. In a world where one-fifth of the population survives on less than $1 per day, where some twenty countries are involved in major armed conflict, and where poverty, corruption, and repressive regimes bring untold suffering to millions of people, we simply cannot remain indifferent. We should also recognize how the export of some negative aspects of our culture can help undermine other societies as well as our own.
Our nation must join with others in addressing policies and problems that provide fertile ground in which terrorism can thrive. Years ago, Pope Paul VI declared, "if you want peace, work for justice." This wisdom should not be misunderstood. No injustice legitimizes the horror we have experienced. But a more just world will be a more peaceful world. There will still be people of hate and violence, but they will have fewer allies, supporters and resources to commit their heinous acts.
Each situation must be addressed on its own merits. Stopping terrorism must be a priority but foreign policy cannot be wholly subsumed under this campaign. The Israeli-Palestinian conflict, the suffering of people in Iraq, the lack of participation in political life, the abuse of human rights, endemic corruption, grinding poverty amidst plenty, and threats to local cultures are sources of deep resentment and hopelessness which terrorists seek to exploit for their own ends. Regardless of terrorists' claims, creative and constructive U.S. engagement, particularly with the Arab and Muslim worlds, in resolving these problems will help restore a peace based on justice. Given the prominence of our country, it is incumbent upon our citizens to pursue in whatever ways they can a more just international political, social and economic order. Reasonable persons may differ on the means to employ, but Catholics cannot remain neutral with respect to that goal. Moreover, the means chosen must be consistent with this goal, since unjust means cannot ultimately result in justice. We must work for the common good, measured not just in economic, political, or security terms, but also in terms of culture, basic human rights such as religious freedom, and all that is needed for a virtuous and spiritual life consistent with authentic human dignity. While our first responsibility is to the common good of our own society, we have an inescapable obligation to promote the global common good as well.
We highlight here a few specific aspects of the common good that deserve special attention. These are matters our bishops' conference has addressed before and in greater depth, but they take on added urgency at this time.
The Israeli-Palestinian Conflict. This decades-old conflict must receive urgent attention from all parties, including the United States, to put an end to the violence and to return to comprehensive negotiations leading to a just and peaceful resolution of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict that respects human rights and international law. We support real security for Israel and the establishment of a viable state for Palestinians. We recognize that each side in this conflict has deep, long-standing and legitimate grievances that must be addressed if there is to be a just and lasting peace. Engagement by the U.S. government and the international community is necessary and must continue. This urgent engagement should respond respectfully to the legitimate claims of both parties and not acquiesce in unilateral actions which undermine prospects for a return to negotiations.
Iraq. The continuing massive suffering of the Iraqi people over the past decade is simply intolerable. As we have done in the past, we deplore the unconscionable policies which have led to the death, from disease and malnutrition, of hundreds of thousands of children. The leaders of the Iraqi regime bear a heavy responsibility for this suffering, not least because of their misuse of resources. They have a moral responsibility to comply with the reasonable international obligations, especially to end efforts to develop weapons of mass destruction. At the same time, the comprehensive economic sanctions, even as modified by the "oil-for-food" program, are causing horrendous suffering and must be brought to an end without delay. The goal is not to reward the Iraqi government, but to relieve a morally unacceptable situation where innocent civilians suffer for the actions of a regime over which they have no control.
Sudan. As the U.S. seeks Sudan's cooperation in the campaign on terrorism, our nation cannot ignore the systematic campaign of terror waged by the government in Khartoum against its own people, especially Christians and practitioners of African traditional religions. Stopping the war in Sudan and finding a peaceful settlement to this conflict is of urgent importance.
The scandal of poverty. Intolerable extremes of misery and a growing gulf between the "haves" and the "have-nots" characterize much of today's world, and breed hostility towards economic globalization. This hostility can be addressed, in part, by a comprehensive development agenda, including substantially increased foreign aid, more equitable trade, and continuing efforts to relieve the crushing burden of debt. We who have so much have a responsibility to the world's needy. We cannot remain last among donor countries in development aid. The United States contributes just one-tenth of one percent of its gross national product in official development assistance, as compared with the international development target of 0.7% of GNP, a target endorsed by our country many times.
Overcoming poverty in our own nation requires a continuing commitment as well. The needs of the jobless, hungry and homeless cannot be ignored or neglected. New spending in response to September 11 and a declining economy will place new pressures on international and domestic programs that serve poor and vulnerable families. The poor abroad and in our own country must not be asked to bear a disproportionate burden of the sacrifices that will have to be made.
Human rights. The necessity of maintaining an international coalition against terrorism must not lead our government to give less public attention to religious liberty and human rights violations around the world. As a nation committed to promoting human rights, we cannot compromise these priorities for temporary alliances that would overlook them.
Weapons of mass destruction and the arms trade. The world is apprehensive about the threat of terrorist attacks using weapons of mass destruction. It is a moral imperative that the U.S. government work to reverse the spread of nuclear, chemical, and biological weapons, pursue progressive nuclear disarmament, take concrete actions to reduce its own predominant role in the conventional arms trade, and work with other nations to do the same.
Strengthening the UN and other international institutions. Each of these problems will benefit from participation of the United Nations and other appropriate international institutions. The United States should play a constructive role in making the United Nations and other international institutions more effective, responsible and responsive. Our government's recent decision to pay its dues to the United Nations is a welcome step.
Having said all this, it is necessary to reiterate that no cause, no grievance can justify flying civilian aircrafts into office towers or infecting postal workers and public figures. Rectifying this injustice will demand prudent action to build a safer, more just and more peaceful world.
It has been said many times that September 11 changed the world. That is true in many ways, but the essential tasks of our community of faith continue with a new urgency and focus. The weeks and months and years ahead will be:
A time for prayer. We pray for the victims and their families; for our president and national leaders; for police and fire fighters; postal, health care and relief workers; and for military men and women. We pray for an end to terror and violence. We also pray for the Afghan people and for our adversaries. We call on Catholics to join in a National Day of Prayer for Peace on January 1, 2002.
A time for fasting. As long as this struggle continues, we urge Catholics to fast one day a week. This fast is a sacrifice for justice, peace and for the protection of innocent human life.
A time for teaching. Many Catholics know the Church's teaching on war and peace. Many do not. This is a time to share our principles and values, to invite discussion and continuing dialogue within our Catholic community. Catholic universities and colleges, schools and parishes should seek opportunities to share the Sacred Scripture and Church teaching on human life, justice and peace more broadly and completely. In a special way we should seek to help our children feel secure and safe in these difficult days.
A time for dialogue. This is a time to engage in dialogue with Muslims, Jews, fellow Christians and other faith communities. We need to know more about and understand better other faiths, especially Islam. We also need to support our interfaith partners in clearly repudiating terrorism and violence, whatever its source. (See Joint Statement of Catholic Bishops and Muslim Leaders, September 14, 2001). As the Holy Father recently said, dialogue is essential for ensuring that "the name of the one God become increasingly what it is: a name for peace and a summons to peace." (Remarks to Pope John Paul II Cultural Center, November 6, 2001).
A time for witness. In our work and communities, we should live our values of mutual respect, human dignity and respect for life. We should seek security without embracing discrimination. We should use our voices to protect human life, to seek greater justice, and to pursue peace as participants in a powerful democracy.
A time for service. Catholic Charities throughout the United States is providing assistance to families, parishes, neighborhoods and communities directly affected by the attacks on September 11. Catholic hospitals in these cities are also in the forefront in caring for those injured in these attacks. Catholic Relief Services is providing critical aid to Afghan refugees and doing invaluable work throughout Central Asia and the Middle East. This is a time for generous and sacrificial giving.
American Catholic servicemen and women and their chaplains are likewise called conscientiously to fulfill their duty to defend the common good. To risk their own lives in this defense is a great service to our nation and an act of Christian virtue.
A time for solidarity. We are not the first to experience such horrors. We now understand better the daily lot of millions around the world who have long lived under the threat of violence and uncertainty and have refused to give in to fear or despair. As we stand in solidarity with the victims of the terrorist attacks and their families, we must also stand with those who are suffering in Afghanistan. We stand with all those whose lives are at risk and whose dignity is denied in this dangerous world.
A time for hope. Above all, we need to turn to God and to one another in hope. Hope assures us that, with God's grace, we will see our way through what now seems such a daunting challenge. For believers, hope is not a matter of optimism, but a source for strength and action in demanding times. For peacemakers, hope is the indispensable virtue. This hope, together with our response to the call to conversion, must be rooted in God's promise and nourished by prayer, penance, and acts of charity and solidarity.
Our nation and the Church are being tested in fundamental ways. Our nation has a right and duty to respond and must do so in right ways, seeking to defend the common good and build a more just and peaceful world. Our community of faith has the responsibility to live out in our time the challenges of Jesus in the Beatitudes – to comfort those who mourn, to seek justice, to become peacemakers. We face these tasks with faith and hope, asking God to protect and guide us as we seek to live out the Gospel of Jesus Christ in these days of trial.
PHILADELPHIA (October 16, 2001) -- Following is a letter from Cardinal Anthony Bevilacqua to President George W. Bush:
Dear Mr. President:
Mr. President, you have rightly called these attacks acts of war. They are the most catastrophic in a series of lethal assaults that include the earlier attack on the World Trade Center and the bombings of United States embassies, a military barracks and a naval vessel. Undeniably, terrorists pose a threat to the lives and security of all people, and a particular danger to Americans here and overseas. Our government has the right and the duty to defend its people against this modern plague upon mankind. It is encouraging to see that other nations also recognize that same moral obligation as they join us in protecting humanity from the evils inherent in this latest form of tyranny.
Over the past few weeks, calls for retaliation motivated by anger and vengeance have been replaced by careful reflection on the need for self-defense. You and your chief advisors aver that the responses by our government and the international coalition currently underway - political, financial, economic and military - are directed toward defending the free world. The United States and its partners in the coalition made clear their preference to protect humanity by diplomatic means rather than military force. Sadly, because past and recent diplomatic efforts and political and economic sanctions failed, military action became necessary. These facts, together with the well-founded hope that we will ultimately succeed in the war against terrorism, demonstrate that we are engaged in a just war.
You, your administration and the Congress are to be commended for the manner in which this war has been conducted so far. The formation of an international coalition, the shared intelligence and coordinated efforts of national and international law enforcement agencies and the steps undertaken to cut off the terrorists' financial resources are all part of a well-conceived and effective plan. By all reports, the military action which began on October 7, 2001, has been both measured and discriminate. I have every confidence that our government will ensure that all future military action will continue to be directed only against the terrorists and the regimes that protect and support them.
You are to be commended also for the humanitarian assistance currently being given to millions of innocent people in Afghanistan who have suffered for more than a decade at the hands of the Taliban. It is heartening to know that the leaders of the coalition intend to continue this assistance in the post-Taliban era, and to create the conditions needed for the people of Afghanistan to establish a just and stable government. It is also heartening to know that the United States and other nations are prepared to support such a government in addressing the conditions and causes of poverty and illness that have brought so much suffering to the innocent people of that land. Hopefully, the unique alliances forged by this war on terrorism will foster new political and diplomatic attempts to address the poverty, suffering and hopelessness from which so many people in that region and elsewhere in the world continue to suffer.
Mr. President, you have been realistic and forthright in stating that the war against terrorism will take a long time. We, the American people, must be equally realistic in recognizing that it will involve sacrifice on our part. It will require patience in coping with security measures that will cause inconvenience and may seem overly intrusive. It will require a willingness to put the common good above some individual civil liberties. It will require unity, courage and steadfastness, especially at times when there may be little tangible evidence that we are succeeding or that a serious threat still remains. For the men and women of the armed forces, the sacrifices will be great indeed. They must be reassured that the cause they champion is just, and that this nation supports every moral means they employ in our defense.
Many Americans believe that life in the United States was changed forever by the terrorist attacks of September 11. To a degree, this is unquestionably true. The unspeakable evil made vivid in the horrific images of commercial aircraft commandeered by suicidal murderers crashing into the Twin Towers of the World Trade Center, the Pentagon and a Pennsylvania field are now permanently etched in the national memory. Mercifully, those images are offset by countless displays of the fundamental goodness of the American people. They have turned to God in this hour of need and prayed for guidance, strength and healing. They have mourned the dead and prayed for the repose of their souls. They have tended to the physical and spiritual needs of their families and of all the injured. The valor and dedication of the rescuers, medical personnel, clergy, civil and religious leaders as well as the loving and tangible concern of the entire nation prove that the American spirit was not buried beneath the rubble. In its best instincts and highest ideals, America remains unchanged by the barbaric attacks that killed thousands of innocent men and women. I pray that, in time, this nation will also recover its sense of security and return to its way of life.
As we search for reasons for the attacks, we must be careful to avoid two unsupportable conclusions: first, that they were God's punishment for moral decay within our nation; second, that they were an inevitable and deserved response to United States foreign policy. These were the acts of men with evil in their hearts, perpetrated against innocent human beings. No reason can be given to explain them or the loathing which inspired them. Still, as a nation victimized by acts of incomprehensible hatred and violence, we must emerge from this experience with a more profound respect for one another, for the world community and for human life itself. A new world order without terrorism must also be one of global solidarity in caring for the needs of every human being.
The anxieties of these perilous times have reminded us all of our utter dependence upon God. Let us continue to ask Him to help all men and women to pursue justice and to live in peace.
With gratitude and with prayers for God's blessings upon you and this great nation, I am
Anthony Cardinal Bevilacqua
WASHINGTON (October 9, 2001) -- Following
is the statement of Galveston-Houston Bishop Joseph A. Fiorenza, President
of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, regarding the military action
by the United States:
The horrifying events of the attack on America on September 11 teach us a crucial lesson about national security. Ultimately, there is no defense against the bitter fruits of injustice.
Surely as a nation, we must respond to these acts of violence. However, I plead with all of us, especially our political leaders, do not respond to violence with violence. It is the moment for new thinking and new ways of acting — based on our religious faith or on our common humanity.
The first step toward new thinking and new ways of acting is to ask why we are under attack. Are those who did these horrendous acts of terror “faceless cowards?” Are they mad men? Or must we face the reality that there are profound grievances among oppressed people that move them to rage and violence against us? Former President Jimmy Carter stated in 1989: “We have only to go to Lebanon, to Syria, to Jordan, to witness firsthand the intense hatred among many people for the United States, because we bombed and shelled and unmercifully killed totally innocent villagers, women and children and farmers and housewives, in those villages around Beirut. . . as a result, we have become a kind of Satan in the minds of those who are deeply resentful. That is what precipitated the taking of hostages and that is what has precipitated some terrorist attacks.” (New York Times 3/26/89)
And in March of 1991, Pope John Paul II declared “I myself, on the occasion of the recent tragic war in the Persian Gulf, repeated the cry, ‘Never again war?’ No, never again war, which destroys the lives of innocent people, teaches how to kill, throws into upheaval even the lives of those who do the killing and leaves behind a trail of resentment and hatred, thus making it all the more difficult to find a just solution of the very problems which provoked the war.”
Pope John Paul II was right in 1991. By going to war in 1991, and prolonging the horrendous effects of that war for over eleven years through the most cruel sanctions, we have left behind “a trail of resentment and hatred” and have made it “all the more difficult to find a just solution of the very problems which provoked the war.” We are doing the same thing in the present crisis. Failing to seek the reasons for the anger and hatred expressed against us and failing to negotiate a just solution of the problems will lead only to greater disasters.
History has not taught anything more clearly than the truth that violence always breeds more violence. The spiral of violence that we are entering into now will lead to ever greater violence. And at this point in history, we cannot preclude even the use of a nuclear device or some form of chemical or biological warfare. In fact, it is not an exaggeration to say that we are closer than ever to the moment in history when “the choice for our planet is no longer a choice between violence or non-violence; it is a choice between non-violence or non-existence.” (Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.)
Clearly, this is a critical turning point in human history. How we as a nation respond to this attack may determine the fate of humanity. We can choose, as we have in the past, to answer violence with violence, or we can chart a new and life-affirming course.
WASHINGTON (September 20, 2001) --
In a letter to President Bush, Galveston-Houston Bishop Joseph A. Fiorenza,
president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, expressed support
for efforts "to seek out and hold accountable" those responsible
for the September 11 terrorist attacks on the United States, saying that
the bishops were praying for him to "find just, wise and effective
ways to respond with resolve and restraint to the long-term task of ending
WASHINGTON (September 18, 2001) --
The US. Bishops thanked Pope John Paul II for his concern after terrorist
attacks in New York and Washington, Tuesday, September 11. They expressed
their gratitude in a September 17 letter signed by Bishop Joseph A. Fiorenza
of Galveston-Houston (TX), president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic
WASHINGTON (September 14, 2001) -- Catholic Bishops and Muslim leaders
issued a joint statement today (September 14) in response to this week's
terrorist attacks on the United States.
WASHINGTON (September 11, 2001) -- The Administrative Committee of the
United States Conference of Catholic Bishops meeting here issued a statement
on the apparent terrorist attacks in New York and Washington today. This
is the text of the statement:
We pray for the living victims that they may know that God is with them in their sufferings. We pray for those who are rescuing and ministering to the injured, that God may strengthen them in their heroic and often heartbreaking work. We pray for our national community that we will be of support to one another in the days ahead as we come to grips with the enormity of what has happened.
We express our support for our President and other government leaders, both national and local, who bear the tremendous responsibility of dealing with the aftermath of these unbelievable events. They are in our prayers in a special way.
If, as seems likely, this tragedy is the result of acts of terrorism, then we pray also for those whose hatred has become so great that they are willing to engage in crimes against our common humanity. May they realize, at last, that such violence creates not justice but greater injustice.
On Friday and Saturday, we celebrate the Feast of the Triumph of the Holy Cross and then honor our Blessed Mother under the title of Our Lady of Sorrows. These are particularly apt days for Catholics to reflect on the ways in which we are called to take up the cross and follow our Lord.
We call upon all our fellow citizens to renew their trust in God and to turn away from the bitter fruits of the kind of hatred which is the source of this tragedy. Especially let us not engage in ethnic, religious, or national stereotyping for what may be the acts of a few irrational terrorists. As the Catholic Bishops of the United States, we unite in prayer to the Lord our God in the words of the Psalmist:
"In you, O Lord, I take refuge...