In early December, Tom Piatak sent me an e-mail to inform me of the “papal challenge” that Peter Robinson had issued over in the Corner on National Review Online. Robinson claimed, as almost all neoconservative Catholics have claimed, that Pope John Paul II never unequivocally opposed the war.
Tom asked me to reply, and sadly, I never did, but an AP report this week has brought the issue back up. First, however, let’s start with some relevant links to the Vatican’s website:
Now, the next day, Robinson complained that no one had sent him “a single quotation—just one—in which John Paul II himself denounces the war in Iraq.” The links above provide ample evidence to disprove Robinson’s claim. Perhaps, however, he wants something that was directed to an American official rather than to another audience. How about something delivered directly to President Bush?
The pontiff’s remarks read, in pertinent part:
3. Mr. President, your visit to Rome takes place at a moment of great concern for the continuing situation of grave unrest in the Middle East, both in Iraq and in the Holy Land. You are very familiar with the unequivocal position of the Holy See in this regard, expressed in numerous documents, through direct and indirect contacts, and in the many diplomatic efforts which have been made since you visited me, first at Castelgandolfo on 23 July 2001, and again in this Apostolic Palace on 28 May 2002.
What is the “unequivocal position of the Holy See” of which Pope John Paul speaks? It should be obvious by now, but, in case there’s any doubt, here’s the AP report that I mentioned earlier:
Cardinal Says Bush Broke Iraq Promise
Mon Jan 10, 9:49 AM ET
By FRANCES D’EMILIO, Associated Press Writer
VATICAN CITY – The Italian cardinal sent by Pope John Paul II last year to try to dissuade President Bush (news – web sites) from invading Iraq said Monday the president promised that the U.S. operation would be “quick.”
Cardinal Pio Laghi visited Bush at the White House on March 5, 2003, to relay the pope’s position that dialogue, not arms, should be used to resolve the crisis over Iraq, which the United States accused of harboring weapons of mass destruction.
“When I went to Washington as the pope’s envoy just before the outbreak of the war in Iraq, he (Bush) told me: `Don’t worry, your eminence. We’ll be quick and do well in Iraq,’” Laghi told Italian Catholic TV station Telepace, which was broadcasting the pontiff’s annual address to diplomats.
When the United States went to war in Iraq, Laghi called the attack on Baghdad “tragic and unacceptable.”
“Unfortunately, the facts have demonstrated afterward that things took a different course — not rapid and not favorable,” the prelate told Telepace. “Bush was wrong.”
Laghi was the Vatican’s first envoy to Washington in the 1980s and established a friendship with Bush’s father, former President George H.W. Bush.
Back to Robinson. In his post on December 3, he wrote:
Lots of readers have sent me lots of emails. They fall into two categories. In the first, general denunciations by the Pontiff of war per se, and, in the second, specific denunciations of the war in Iraq, but only by members of the Vatican diplomatic corps, notably the secretary of state, Cardinal Soldano, and the former nuncio to the United States, Cardinal Laghi. What is missing, in other words, is a single quotation—just one—in which John Paul II himself denounces the war in Iraq.
“[O]nly by members of the Vatican diplomatic corps, notably the secretary of state, Cardinal Soldano, and the former nuncio to the United States, Cardinal Laghi”–and yet now we know that Pio Laghi was dispatched to Washington by John Paul himself, and that his position was not his, but the Holy Father’s.
I eagerly await Peter Robinson’s retraction.