One of the great cracks that broke open in the face of neoconservative Catholicism in the early 21st century was the dissonance between the Vatican and self-appointed voices of John Paul II in the United States, the Catholic neocons, over the 2003 Gulf War. The failed attempt by Michael Novak who traveled to Rome on behalf of the State Department to garner support for the war is well known as is the efforts of George Weigel and others to downplay John Paul II’s apparent opposition.
However, it is often forgotten that the late Holy Father condemned even more explicitly the first Gulf War led by president George H.W. Bush. In his Urbi and Orbi speech at the end of March 1991, John Paul II stated of the war:
“A choice was made of aggression and the violation of international law, when it was presumed to solve the tensions between the peoples by war, the sower of death..”
These were not the only comments made by John Paul regarding the injustice of the Gulf War.
While Catholic neocons in the past have admitted that John Paul did oppose the first Gulf War, in his most recent work Lessons in Hope, George Weigel tells a different story. According to Weigel, Cardinal Jean-Louis Tauran
“confirmed that John Paul II had called President George H.W. Bush the night before the ultimatum to Saddam Hussein requiring him to evacuate Kuwait or face allied military action expired: the Pope said that if diplomacy couldn’t resolve a violation of international law that must not stand, he hoped the allies would win, Saddam would be ejected from Kuwait, and there would be as few casualties as possible.”
So, here we have a curious conundrum, and there are possibilities.
- Weigel is lying.
- Cardinal Tauran was lying.
- John Paul II told George H.W. Bush one thing and the world another (this is actually the worst possible scenario).