An American Catholic bishop has forbidden his diocese from supporting or cooperating in military action against Iraq. Bishop John Michael Botean, the head of the Romanian Catholic diocese of St George in Canton, Ohio-- which has jurisdiction over all Byzantine-rite Romanian Catholics in the US-- invoked the full measure of his authority in a Lenten Letter to his people. The bishop declared with "moral certainty" that the proposed attack on Iraq "does not meet even the minimal standards of the Catholic just-war theory." The bishop announced that he "must declare to you, my people, for the sake of your salvation as well as my own, that any direct participation and support of this war against the people of Iraq is objectively grave evil, a matter of mortal sin." Bishop Botean acknowledged that the Catechism of the Catholic Church (2309) identifies public authorities as the final judges of whether military action is justified. But he argued that "the nation-state is never the final arbiter or authority for the Catholic of what is moral." An unjust law or order should not be obeyed, he observed. He wrote: "I would much prefer to keep silent...Never before have I spoken to you in this manner, explicitly exercising the fullness of authority Jesus Christ has given his apostles." But he said he felt morally obliged to guide his people. Arguing that a military assault on Iraq does not fit the criteria of the just-war tradition, Bishop Botean concluded in stark terms: "Thus, any killing associated with it is unjustified and, in consequence, unequivocally murder."
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