WASHINGTON -- As the United States and other nations took military action to protect the people of Libya, a U.S. bishop urged the Obama administration to stay focused on this limited goal and on the well-being of the civilian population.
In a letter to National Security Adviser Thomas Donilon, Bishop Howard J. Hubbard of Albany, N.Y., chairman of the Committee on International Justice and Peace of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, urged a careful use of force in Libya balanced with the aim of protecting the civilian population and consideration of whether the use of force is "proportionate to the goal of protecting civilians."
The letter was dated March 24 and made public the following day.
The bishop said the use of military force must 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.
The bishop said the purpose articulated in U.N. Security Council Resolution 1973 to demand "a cease-fire and a complete end to violence and all attacks against, and abuses of, civilians" appears to meet the traditional criterion of "just cause," but said the U.S. bishops joined Pope Benedict XVI in following the military action in Libya with "great apprehension."
"Based on long-standing church teaching and experience, we have offered moral guidance and asked key moral questions," the bishop said. "As pastors and teachers, we have refrained from making definitive judgments because the situation on the ground remains complex and involves many prudential decisions beyond our expertise."