Wednesday, May 17, 2006

Dr. Edward Peters clarifies contribution to Neo-Conned, IHS Press

A note on my Neo-Conned! essay, by Edward N. Peters, JD, JCD.

Dr. Peters, a canon lawyer who maintains the blog In the Light of the Law, and whose essay was included in the two-volume series by IHS Press, Neo-Conned! Just War Principles: a Condemnation of the War in Iraq (HIS Press, 2005), has written a post in which he relates how his essay on Bishop John Botean's condemmnation of Catholic participation in the war on Iraq came to be included in the anthology:

Some time later [after blogging about Bishop Botean], John Sharpe began assembling an impressive array of thinkers opposed to the Iraq War and, for obvious reasons, included Bp. Botean's letter in his collection. Despite my clear reservations about Bp. Botean's comments, Sharpe contacted me and asked permission to include my critique of Bp. Botean's comments in the book he edited . . . Happy to cooperate with those trying to make a serious contribution to public discourse, notwithstanding my disagreement with some of their positions, I gave that permission.
Dr. Peters also clarifies his own stance on the war in Iraq -- which, it appears, is at variance with the indicement of his fellow contributors to Neo-Conned:
for what it might be worth, on the Iraq War I fall, if anywhere, in a very narrow no-man's-land. I say "if anywhere" because I have not really "taken a position" (whatever that exactly means) on the war for the simple reason that ordinary citizens (and I am unusually ordinary) generally do not have the information necessary to form persuasive opinions on such matters. Specifically, I think that Just War principles are primarily intended to inform governmental leaders in their decision-making (CCC 2309); the criteria by which we citizens relate to the government are distinguishable in a number of respects.

In any case, here in no-man's-land, we happy few think that a plausible case can be made for the United States to have invaded Iraq to rid that people of their mass-murdering, war-mongering, terrorist-abetting, eco-terrorist dictator Saddam Hussein, but that our staying there to try to establish a parliamentary democracy in a land with no 'democratic infra-structure' is, well, less plausible. I admit to being surprised that this reasoning finds so little resonance with others; it makes me wonder whether I/we have missed something important, but, there it is.

In any case, my comments about Bp. Botean, on my blog and in Neo-Conned, are only about the eparch's canonical and moral reasoning, on which topics I have some special qualifications to speak, and not about US participation in the Iraq War, on which matter I have no special qualifications with which to opine.

To revisit Dr. Peters' evaluation of Bishop Botean: (Bishop Boteans' Lenten Message In the Light of the Law March 18, 2003):
"The eparch's statement is unprecedented for its clarity and starkness; it simply must be read to appreciate this point, though fair-minded readers can admit that it is not a peacenik, blame-America-first harangue, but is instead a reasoned (though, I think, wrongly) exercise of conscience. It cannot be issued, however, and then forgotten. If Bishop Botean is correct, his argumentation would seem to apply to all Catholics, and only an inexcusable lack of pastoral solicitude on the part of other Eastern and Latin bishops could account for them not following suit immediately. If, on the other hand, Bishop Botean is wrong, then he has placed his faithful in a profound and direct conflict of conscience between their ecclesiastical and civil leaders, which, I suggest only an inexcusable lack of pastoral solicitude would suffer them to remain in.
As Dr. Peters adds, Mark Brumely (Ignatius Press) also responded at the time:
Apparently, Bishop Botean thinks that war with Iraq is a similar situation. He seems to regard the circumstances that others--Catholic and non-Catholic--point to as justifying war with Iraq as so manifestly incompatible with Catholic just war teaching that no prudent person could reasonably judge otherwise, based on Catholic principles. In taking that stand, Bishop Botean has gone far beyond what the U.S. bishops and representatives of the Holy See have said, both groups of which have opposed war with Iraq. In effect, he claims that the facts are so obviously contrary to how many faithful, informed Catholics and others see them that traditional Catholic teaching about the right and duty of civil authority to make the determination of whether war is justified can be set aside (cf. Catechism of the Catholic Church, no. 2309) and that he, as bishop, can bind his people to follow his personal assessment of the geopolitical situation.

What is worse, Bishop Botean presents no arguments or evidence that Catholic just war teaching is not applicable to U.S. led attack on Iraq; he simply declares that it is not and expects those for whom he exercises pastoral responsibility to comply, as if no supporting assessment of the facts is necessary or contrary assessment possible.

(Brumley Responds to Botean, Envoy Encore March 21, 2003).