DAILY CATHOLIC TUESDAY January 5, 1999 vol. 10, no. 2
NEWS & VIEWS
US MILITARY ARCHBISHOP: SOLDIERS MUST WEIGH MORALITY OF ORDERS
WASHINGTON, DC (CWNews.com) - The archbishop of the Archdiocese for US Military Services said last week that the US bombing of Iraq is morally questionable and that US military personnel should question their actions if ordered to take an action that is a clear "violation of the moral law."
Archbishop Edwin O'Brien said in a statement to Catholic chaplains serving the US armed forces around the world that soldiers, airmen, seamen, and Marines "are not exempt from making conscientious decisions" when confronted with immoral orders. "I join the bishops of our country as well as the concerned voices of the Holy See and other hierarchies in calling on our president and his advisers to initiate no further military action in the Middle East," he said, referring to a five-day bombing campaign on Iraq initiated by the US and Britain as punishment for Iraqi non-compliance with UN weapons inspections.
The archbishop praised the professionalism of US military personnel and noted that they are subject to the policy decisions of US elected leaders. "Once civilian leadership decides a policy requiring military action, it is the sworn obligation of all in our armed forces to execute their mission in complete obedience unless in a specific instance the required action is judged clearly illegal or immoral," he said.
Archbishop O'Brien stipulated the conditions under which a
soldier decides the morality of an order. "In executing
orders that might violate just war requirements military
personnel face a serious moral challenge .... Any
individual who judges an action on his or her part to be in
violation of the moral law is bound to avoid that action,"
he wrote. "When clear moral conclusions that a particular
act is unjust cannot be reached because, for example, of
lack of sufficient evidence, the individual is justified in
following the presumably better informed decision of his or
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NEWS & VIEWS