The Raving Theist

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Nun Sense

April 21, 2003 Comments Off

Sister Rose Sheridan was a bit pissed off with the God Squad’s March 22, 2003 column in favor of the war in Iraq. In a letter to Newsday, she wrote:


I read the God Squad column regularly to observe how two related but different traditions can meld. Generally, all comes out well, but “The Starfish Theory Of a Just War” [Act II, March 22] fell short.

The beloved clergymen say that their job “is to state clearly what we know to be true from the texts and traditions,” yet they conclude that war with Iraq is justified to free the Iraqi people.

From what texts and traditions have they extrapolated this conclusion? They render a single text — a literal interpretation of the Exodus event to prove their “truth.” The Christian community has based its moral position primarily on the words and deeds of Jesus Christ.

The Roman Catholic community is also urged to turn for additional guidance on social issues to a compendium of documents generally called Catholic social teachings. Two of the many documents on the issues of war and peace — “Pacem in Terris” (Pope John XXIII, 1963) and “The Challenge of Peace” (National Conference of Catholic Bishops, 1983) could offer much enlightenment. Yet there was no text in the article that included any of the above.

War with Iraq was deemed morally unjustified by the Vatican, the U.S. National Conference of Catholic Bishops, the National Council of Churches, virtually every mainline Christian denomination and many other religious communities.

Finally, the opening comment, “consult your favorite politician to have your views on the war confirmed,” suggesting that Long Islanders did not reflect on the morality of their decisions, is offensive to all, regardless of their position on war with Iraq.

What exactly, though, is Sister Sheridan’s moral argument here? That essays written by Popes and Bishops between 20 and 40 years ago trump a literal interpretation of the Bible? When the Squad addressed the issue, they identified very specific evils: 1) the suffering of the Iraqi people and 2) Saddam’s threat the rest of the world. Although they quite crazily concluded (based on their reading of Exodus) that only the harm to the Iraqis mattered — and that it somehow “supercede[d] even America’s need to be free from terrorism” — their column offered at least some discussion of the impact of the war decision on actual human lives.

All Sister Sheridan offers is the fact that some religious groups opposed the war. She doesn’t say why they did, or why she agreed with them. And while she’s offended that the suggestion that people “did not reflect on the morality of their decisions,” there’s absolutely no evidence that she’s done any moral reflection herself. She’s simply adopted a position on the ground her Church supports advocates it, consulting her favorite clergyman rather than her favorite politician.

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