The following was written by Rev. Emmanuel Charles McCarthy.
I hope you will be able to find the time to view this short documentary, In Solitary Episcopal Witness, on Bishop John Botean’s 2003 Pastoral Letter morally denouncing the War on Iraq as gravely evil. Bishop Botean, being a summa cum laude graduate in philosophy from the Catholic University of America, being an award-winning musician and being multi-lingual is as cognitively capable as any other Catholic bishop or priest. Yet, it is he alone who on March 7, AD 2003, less than two weeks before the government of the United States launched its invasion of Iraq on March 19, 2003, wrote a Pastoral Letter to the people of his diocese which was publicly read from every pulpit in every Romanian Catholic Church in the U.S. on Sunday, March 9, 2003.
In it Bishop Botean communicated to the people in his pastoral care that participation in the coming U.S. War against the people of Iraq would be participating in an unjust war, that is, in an intrinsically grave evil, by all the traditional moral standards of the Catholic Church. No other sitting Catholic Bishop of a diocese in the United States told his people before, or even during this decade long war, that this was by the standards of Jesus and Catholic moral theology an unjust war, and that therefore the killing and maiming done by those directly participating in it at any level was participation in unjustified homicide, which is always and under all circumstances gravely intrinsically evil and never morally permissible.
This mini-documentary, In Solitary Episcopal Witness, on Bishop John Botean and the source of his decision to publicly morally condemn the War on Iraq, is so titled as an allusion to Gordon Zahn’s seminal biography on Blessed Franz Jagerstatter, which is titled In Solitary Witness. The title was chosen not only because Bishop Botean is the only Catholic Bishop, who is the Ordinary of a diocese in the U.S., who so spoke about U.S. Catholic participation in the War in Iraq, but also, because like the decision of Blessed Franz Jagerstatter to reject Hitler’s call to arms, Bishop Botean’s Pastoral Letter on this matter did not find much support from many quarters from which vigorous support would have normally been expected. I suspect part of the reason for this is that in our gong-booming, cymbal-clashing, hyper-partisan politicized secular and religious society, Bishop Botean’s Pastoral Letter morally denouncing the War against Iraq finds little to nothing of its source, purpose, motivation or end in the world of governmental politics. Hence, liberal Catholic and Christian professional and amateur politicos and mass media pundits, and conservative Catholic and Christian politicos and mass media pundits—minus a few exceptions here and there—relegated this unique episcopal document in the history of the American Catholic Church to the “not-in-our-interests bin.”
Maybe this thirty-minute documentary can help make a bit clearer the whys and wherefores of Bishop Botean’s Pastoral Letter. And, maybe with such awareness it might be transferred to the “urgently-in-our-interests bin.”
There is much, much to ponder, personally and as Church, in this short video-documentary on the writing of a Pastoral Letter. I hope you will ponder it, share it and dialogue on it in light of the millions of human beings killed and maimed in Iraq since the day this Pastoral Letter was read from all the pulpits of one diocese in the United States. I hope you will do this because in the end this Pastoral and video are not exclusively, or even primarily, about a war or war. They are about the salvation of souls, the redemption of all humanity, by the only means by which the Nonviolent Jesus of the Gospels taught that humanity could be redeemed: love, love as He, who is the visible image of the invisible God, loved us.