US Catholic bishops express 'apprehension' at Libya campaign

By staff writers
March 28, 2011

As the boundaries between civilian protection and civil war grow ever murkier in Libya, US Catholic bishops have expressed “great apprehension” at the military intervention.

The bishops have asked the Obama administration to stay focused on the limited goal of ''protecting the people of Libya from their own government", as well as the well-being of the civil population.

“Important questions include: How is the use of force protecting the civilian population of Libya? Is the force employed proportionate to the goal of protecting civilians?” wrote Bishop Howard J. Hubbard of Albany, New York, chair of the Committee on International Justice and Peace of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) in a 24 March 2011 letter to National Security Advisor Thomas E Donilon.

The bishop also urged that the use of force be continually evaluated in light of these questions: “Is it producing evils graver than the evil it hopes to address?” and “What are the implications of the use of force for the future welfare of the Libyan people and the stability of the region?”

“We know these are difficult questions to which there are few easy answers, but it is our moral responsibility as a nation to rigorously examine the use of military force in light of the need to protect human life and dignity,” said Bishop Hubbard.

Bishop Hubbard said the purpose articulated in UN Security Council Resolution 1973 to demand “a ceasefire and a complete end to violence and all attacks against, and abuses of, civilians” appears to meet the traditional criterion of 'just cause', but he said the US bishops joined Pope Benedict XVI in following the military action in Libya with “great apprehension.”

Other US Christians have opposed the intervention, saying that it imperils more lives than it claims to save, risks dislocation and chaos in the region, detracts from nonviolent people power movements in the Middle East, and edges civil war ever closer.

The full US Catholic bishops' letter is available online (*.PDF Adobe Acrobat file) at:


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