Pavel Chichikov is making a very good point

In response to some of the more zealous pro-war types who are disgusted because the Pope and the bishops urge against war with Iraq, he writes in a comment below, “I don’t *ever* want to hear my bishops advocating or justifying war. I want them to urge peace up until the last moment.”

And, come to think of it, when *was* the last time you heard of a Pope or bishop *urging* war? Not just this Pope, but I mean, like, any Pope in our lifetime or in the lifetime of our great great grandparents? Did *any* Pope of the 20th Century *advocate* war? The popes on the eve of both world wars struggled mightily against it and urged that war not be fought. Were they also spineless wimps who loved dictators? Or were they acting as counter-cultural witnesses for peace? They did not (as our bishops do not) label the wars against aggression immoral. But they still urged against war while leaving it up to Caesar to make the final call.

The more I think about it, the more I would hardly expect (or want) them to do anything else. There’s something appalling about the thought of a bishop or Pope *advocating* war. It’s like the thought of a Pope standing outside a prison waving a frying pan during an execution and cheering. Or throwing a party to celebrate the termination of a tubal pregnancy. The Church’s theology suffers the awful reality of just war and does not call it immoral. But to expect the Church to celebrate and root for war is somehow deeply tone deaf to the message of the gospel: “Blessed are the peacemakers.”

I think, more and more, that the witness for peace of the bishops is something like the witness of celibacy. It’s not binding on the rest of us, but it still challenges us to think of things higher than realpolitik and to try to strive heroically for peace rather than just settle for war with a sort of tired sense of inevitability.

As a layman, I still think the war with Iraq needs to be fought. But I do not share the contempt so many conservatives seem to have for bishops because they urge peace. I wonder more and more what the hell else we should expect them to do?