Loving Their Enemies? New Zealand’s Catholic Bishops Come Out In Support of the Iraq Deployment.


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“WE CAN NO LONGER watch from the sidelines as the Islamic State continues to inflict immense suffering and brutality.” John Key? Mike Hosking? Fran O’Sullivan? John Roughan? No. These are the words of the Catholic Bishops of New Zealand. Alone among the other major Christian denominations, the Catholic Church has come out in support of the National-led Government’s troop deployment to Iraq.

“If by providing training to the Iraqi Army we can assist them to stop the aggressor in their land,” write the Bishops, “then as a matter of promoting the common good we should provide that assistance.”

Released on 24 February, in the form of a letter to their congregations, the Bishops’ message argues strongly that the people of Iraq “must not be left to face such unjust aggression on their own.”

Pope Francis, himself, write the Bishops, has said that it is “licit to stop an unjust aggressor”.

The Catholic Church’s senior cleric in New Zealand, Cardinal John Dew, softened the bishops’ position (if only slightly) by adding that: “Substantial humanitarian support should also be part of New Zealand’s involvement in Iraq.”

It has been a long time since any of New Zealand’s major Christian denominations spoke out publicly in favour of a military engagement. Indeed, the reconciliation of Jesus’s injunction to “Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you”, with support for any kind of warfare requires some very fancy philosophical and theological footwork.

Before attempting such a challenging ethical tap-dance the Catholic Bishops would have checked out Paragraph 2,309 of the 1992 Catechism of the Catholic Church, which lists four strict conditions for “legitimate defence by military force:”

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1. The damage inflicted by the aggressor on the nation or community of nations must be lasting, grave and certain;

2. All other means of putting an end to it must have been shown to be impractical or ineffective;

3. There must be serious prospects of success;

4. The use of arms must not produce evils and disorders graver than the evil to be eliminated.

As far as the First and Second Conditions go, the Bishops would appear to be on fairly solid ground. For the unfortunate souls who find themselves living in Islamic State, the likelihood of suffering “lasting, grave and certain” damage at the hands of its fanatical soldiers and clerics is all-too-real. Moreover, almost all of the numerous attempts to prevent or mitigate that damage, whether by negotiation or exhortation, have failed. If these were the only preconditions for the use of military force, then the Bishops would have their episcopal slippers on some pretty solid ground.

Where their position becomes decidedly unsteady, however, is when the Third and Fourth Conditions are applied to the Iraq Deployment.

Very few experts foresee the Western intervention against Islamic State having any serious prospects of success. Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi’s Caliphate could not have been born, nor could it have survived, had the armies of the Christian West not attacked and occupied Iraq, and the Shi’a regime, installed on the points of those armies bayonets, not unleashed a murderous campaign of terror, murder and theft against the Sunni population.

The current Iraqi government, characterised by its American sponsors as more moderate and inclusive than its vicious predecessor, is in fact beholden to precisely the same constellation of religious, military and economic forces. For the Sunni Muslims of Iraq and Syria, the present evils of al-Baghdadi’s Caliphate are, sadly, preferable to the much worse evils that await them should the Shi’a militias prove victorious.

International relief and refugee agencies are already preparing for the flight of up to a million Sunni citizens from the city of Mosul should it be in imminent danger of falling to the Shi’a dominated (and Kiwi trained!) Iraqi army. Few Sunni Iraqis doubt the intensity of the Shi’a desire to be avenged upon the “butchers” of Islamic State. The mutilated bodies of Sunni citizens dumped on Baghdad’s rubbish heaps by Iranian-backed Shi’a militiamen have been every bit as effective, as brutal, flesh-and-blood propaganda, as any of Islamic State’s gruesome videos.

The better our Kiwi soldiers train these Shi’a butchers, the graver the evils and disorders they are bound to produce. In attempting to eliminate the evil of Islamic State, the New Zealand Defence Force could very easily become an accessory to the bloody sacking of Iraq’s second-largest city.

Are the Catholic Bishops really content to be associated with the slaughter and rape of innocent women and children? The torture and summary execution of thousands of Islamic State fighters? And the burning and looting of a great and ancient city?

St Thomas Aquinas wrote that: “Three things are necessary for the salvation of Man: to know what he ought to believe; to know what he ought to desire; and to know what he ought to do.”

With St Thomas’s words ringing in their ears, New Zealand’s Catholic Bishops should think again.


  1. Chris, Catholics now has a directive that if genocide is being committed it is OK to go to war to defend those people and you can also defend yourself if directly threatened. Please get your facts regardless of your point of view on this deployment.

    • @ Delia Morris: “…if genocide is being committed it is OK to go to war to defend those people and you can also defend yourself if directly threatened.”

      Delia, it’s very hard to believe that the Catholic bishops’ understanding of what’s happening in Iraq could be as one-dimensional as is suggested by the statement quoted above in Chris Trotter’s post. I know that the Vatican bristles with Jesuits – recognised as the Church’s intellectual firepower – and I’m certain that none of them would sign up to a statement as vacuous as that.

      Really, if the Catholic bishops wish to be taken seriously, they’re going to have to do better than this. They could start by getting policy advice from the Jesuits, perhaps.

  2. Delia, we are not “going to war” to defend people.

    Key is deploying army trainers to Iraq to train Iraqis. An exercise that has cost the US $25 billion and failed spectacularly!!

    Get YOUR facts right, I suggest!!

    • Are you seriously equating Nato with IS? Remind me againwhat stopped the Yugoslav army from evicting 100’s of thousands of Albanians permanently from Kosovo in 1999.

      • @ Gosman: “Remind me againwhat stopped the Yugoslav army from evicting 100’s of thousands of Albanians permanently from Kosovo in 1999.”

        NATO acted unilaterally, without UNSC mandate. Note that the mass expulsion of Albanians came after the NATO bombing campaign began, not before. There is quite a bit of information online about the Kosovo war.

        And here’s a thing: Serbian sovereignty over Kosovo was recognised by the UN, but despite that, NATO sided with the Kosovar Albanians in their push for independence. Contrast that situation with NATO rhetoric – and worse – over Eastern Ukraine and Crimea. NATO’s not big on consistency, then.

        • For once I agree with Gosman. The UN stood around fretting whilst the Serbs were systematically murdering Bosnian civilians. Their pleas for the Serbs to stop it all had these thugs merely raising their middle finger up in response. NATO had had enough, they cut through the red tape and gave the Serbs a taste of their own medicine. Effective it was too. The UN gets so wrapped up in its own bureaucracy that it can’t get past snail pace.

          • @ Mike the Lefty: “The UN stood around fretting whilst the Serbs were systematically murdering Bosnian civilians.”

            This isn’t the same conflict that Gosman’s talking about.

  3. Supporting a government that wants us to join a notorious bloodbath, and help fuel another cycle of violence and blood letting and counter violence, with no end in sight,

    But attacking educators that are doing a good job?

    Surely the Catholic Church in New Zealand has its priorities all wrong?

    While the New Zealand Catholic bishops are happy to give their blessing to the government to take part in a new Western crusade to the Middle East, to fight a medieval type Moslem insurgency known as ISIS, (a war opposed by most New Zealanders), at home are angered by a Manurewa High School that has cut teen pregnancy to zero, and raised academic achievment by 30%


  4. If you don’t wish to support the Iraqi government (which despite all it’s faults is still far more democratic than that nation has ever experienced before) it seems to me you only have two alternatives. Either you urge negotiations between the parties or you leave them two it. Negotiations are unlikely to work given IS’s agenda and leaving them to it risks the country becoming a breeding ground for Terrorist that eventually seep back to western nations along the lines of what happened in Afghanistan with Osama Bin Laden when the Taliban took over. Which of those are you promoting Mr Trotter?

    • @ Gosman: “If you don’t wish to support the Iraqi government (which despite all it’s faults is still far more democratic than that nation has ever experienced before)…”

      You’re just trying to wind people up,right? If you sincerely believe this, where on earth have you been and what have you been reading? Or not…

  5. First off , – Gosman ? , – you’re an idiot.

    Right , niceties out of the way.

    Now , the fact remains if anyone is going to point at the crusades , well yes they may be right….but the historical planned invasion of christian Europe by the Muslims that precipitated their defeat by the ‘ Christian Franks ‘ around 1500 years ago put paid to all notions of conquest for the Muslims.

    The Muslims invaded what is now Poland and in a pincer movement attacked through Spain and into southern France to hopefully overrun the ruling Frankish empire that opposed them.

    The Muslims were routed by inferior numbers on foot by the Franks ( the Muslims were mounted troops ) and sent back into Spain where many became what is now the ‘ Moores’.

    Many other affiliated tribes who were forced to fight for the Muslim army crossed back into Africa and the vast Muslim army basically disbanded any attempts to take Europe from then on.

    Basically they got their arses kicked for being the aggressors.

    Sorry folks …but dems da facts.

    No matter how , who or when you try to explain it – it was the early evangelistic fervor and threat of ‘ death by the sword if you don’t join us’ by the early Muslim movement that started the first waves of aggression against the West.

    You think the ‘Christian ‘ West was going to take this lying down???

    Of course not.

    And even though Europe was busy infighting and killing itself …when the Pope of the day pleaded for unity against a common enemy?…the call was answered.

    This perversion of history grates against any history buff. This denial of the historical facts in favor of revisionism reaches to the heart of anyone who seeks the truth.

    So let us not hear anymore talk about the cringing West and its evils. The Muslim world has its own skeletons in the cupboard and shortcomings.

    It has its own list of infamy of the treatment of multitudes of people who belonged to a different culture or were dissenters from its tenets.

    Dont you worry about that one , mate.

    Fast forward to this century , to this decade and we have an impostor PM who wishes to circumvent this nations democratic processes. He is , a Forex trader, with known links to the very President of the USA .

    A person who whilst in the Forex market had no qualms about sacking the NZ economy for his Forex overlord. So much so that in the Clarke administration , a representative of that administration personally phoned that persons lawyers to ” Get the fuck off NZ’s economy ”……it had became that serious and had threatened this country’s economy.

    It was known as the biggest Forex heist in Forex history. And Key was a right hand man in planning against the very nation who gave him birth.

    He has been groomed , selected , of ethnic background , a Jew.

    A Zionist?…we do not know.. of sympathies to Israel?…more than likely. Of interests to a global governance. Most probably so.

    He uses the GSCB to keep tabs on that other Zionist , Cameron Slater…Slater in turn uses all electronic evidence stored as a weapon against Key. This is called the ‘ balance of power’ …in a local sense if you like.

    And so we have a person with loyalties as PM that are in fact more geared towards the monied elite , the one world govt , the globalists …many of whom are Zionistic Jews ( but by no means exclusively ) wielding power and finance from the shores of the USA …..the lifeblood of the state of Israel…

    As for the Catholic church , it has had many positions of importance throughout the ages , none the least that of a political and financial hub for many dictatorships…so long as they didn’t get too loud…they were useful .

    But they are no fools as well…as in the days of the first Muslim invasions of Europe…they now have much to loose if they do not support the Western banking system.

    And its war.

    So yes….it was entirely predictable they would take this stance. Entirely so.

    These …political leaders , Muslim and Christian alike are not true believers…they are whats called ‘ nominal’ believers. They believe when it suits their agendas and political goals.

    There is a syndrome…whereby when hostages are taken , if left exposed to their captors… they begin to sympathize with their captors…already I can see this process at work among those of less analytical abilities…

    An over-identification with those of infamy…who are plainly evil.

    I would say the greatest need in this world today is that of forgiveness , real forgiveness. As ALL have sinned – each and every empire, kingdom , nation adn individual.

    You are all equally as nasty , shitty , self centered and thinking of yourselves as the next person. Muslim or Christian , Buddhist or Hindi….makes no difference.

    You all need to forgive and be forgiven . Each and every one of you.

    In fact , if you don’t believe that…that was what a person said two thousand years ago and they killed him for it.

    Go figure.

  6. Given that American-instigated military adventures have destroyed the political and social fabric of Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya and Syria it must be time we asked whether U.S. Foreign Policy is either utterly incompetent or vastly malicious.

    I cannot believe that the U.S. with all its intellectual resource could not foresee the complete breakdown of civil society as an inevitable consequence of their actions. It was predicted by many but most significantly by History itself.

    The only conclusion available is that this crime was deliberate.
    The Israel/U.S. coalition are the sole beneficiaries of a policy that has left millions dead and homeless.

    Iraq, rich in oil on the one hand and internally torn on the other, is guaranteed as a candidate for Israel’s targets. Its dissolution is even more important for us than that of Syria. Iraq is stronger than Syria. In the short run it is Iraqi power which constitutes the greatest threat to Israel. An Iraqi-Iranian war will tear Iraq apart and cause its downfall at home even before it is able to organize a struggle on a wide front against us.
    Every kind of inter-Arab confrontation will assist us in the short run and will shorten the way to the more important aim of breaking up Iraq into denominations as in Syria and in Lebanon. In Iraq, a division into provinces along ethnic/religious lines as in Syria during Ottoman times is possible. So, three (or more) states will exist around the three major cities: Basra, Baghdad and Mosul, and Shi’ite areas in the south will separate from the Sunni and Kurdish north.

    The Zionist Plan for the Middle East
    Translated and edited by Israel Shahak

    [This post borders on anti-semitism. I will let this one pass because of the relevance of the rest of your comments. However, my ‘radar’ will be tuned to comments in future that are racist or anti-semitic in nature, and may not pass the ‘sniff’ test. – ScarletMod]

    • I cant see how this is anti-Semitic at all. The conclusions drawn are perfectly plausible and the main quote has been referenced. What’s the problem?

    • Please indicate which parts of the above post “border on anti-Semitism”.
      It cannot be within the block-quoted passage as that was written by Oded Yinon, a foreign affairs adviser to Ariel Sharon and published in Kivinum, the the journal of the Department of Information of the World Zionist Organization, translated by eminent Israeli and Holocaust survivor Israel Shahak.

      The Anti Defamation League defines anti-Semitism as “The belief or behaviour hostile toward Jews just because they are Jewish.”

      My post does not contain the word “Jew” or “Jewish” and, outside of that quoted passage the only reference to Israel is this:
      “The Israel/U.S. coalition are the sole beneficiaries of a policy that has left millions dead and homeless” , a statement of fact that is as difficult to dispute as it is to find within it, a trace of anti-Semitism or racism.
      If criticism of the Government of the U.S. and its close ally Israel’s policies is considered off-limits on this blog then please publicise that fact in the comment guidelines.

      You may infer from this that I object most strongly to being characterised as a racist of any description and ask that you withdraw that vile smear.

      • @ Brewer: “Please indicate which parts of the above post “border on anti-Semitism”.”

        I agree. For the life of me, I couldn’t see what the problem was with your comment above. I think I can be forgiven for concluding that any critique of Israel is interpreted by some people as “racism”.

        In my view, chucking the epithet “racism” around is a very effective squelcher of debate. This may not always be the intention, but it is surely the effect. It isn’t racist to point out the perfidies of Israel over the past many decades; nor is it “anti-American” to criticise the US’ uncritical – indeed, almost unconditional – support for Israel since its establishment. There needs to be a great deal more scrutiny and critique.

        • Thanks for that D’Esterre. For a moment I felt that the World had gone really crazy and Denis and I were the only sane ones left.
          Due to the lack of response from the moderators I shall desist from commenting or reading The Daily Blog. I have had no response from Martyn whom I have been blogging with for six or so years. I’ve never really felt that The Daily Blog really captured the spirit of the early Tumeke days. A good blog has to understand the difference between abuse and reality.
          People who truly understand the difference between Jewishness and the imperialist ideology that governs Israel today should visit http://mondoweiss.net/ a top blog run by American Jews. I’ve been blogging there for six years without complaint – even written essays on anti-Semitism:
          …..with positive response.
          So it goes. Keep up the fight.

  7. Considering the entire Islamic State, ISIS, ISIL or Da’ish phenomenon; I find the popular media narrative extremely misleading by being overwhelmingly simplistic, the actual situation is probably much more complex.

    In the media we typically find an occupied area of land in the Middle East associated with the Islamic State/ISIS group. Yet this territory was occupied last year with the assistance of various groups many nationalist/Ba’athist

    CIA estimates of ISIS strength was/is between 20 – 30, 000 fighters. Yet one of the groups that cooperated with ISIS in their advance last year, the Iraqi Nationalist/Ba’athist; General Military Council of Iraqi Revolutionaries (GMCIR) has an estimated strength of 75,000 fighters. They (GMCIR) having begun their insurrection against the former Maliki Government in January 2014.

    The GMCIR claims to be non-sectarian, with a South Iraqi Shi’a second-in-command, adhering to the Geneva Convention, have a truce with the Kurdish Regional Government, and seeking a “democratic solution” to the Iraqi crisis. In Mosul a former Iraqi General was appointed as governor at their request with agreement from other groups including ISIS, with now ISIS no longer having a military presence on the streets in Mosul. With various spokesmen criticising ISIS’s strict implementation of Sharia, claims that the GMCIR is stronger than ISIS, describing ISIS members as “barbarians”, and once their (GMCIR) objectives are completed they will “kick them out” – this “ISIS controlled territory” presented by the media, and in particular, televised news media, is in reality likely the estate of a shaky marriage of convenience between various groups, not exclusively ISIS. Cooperating in a common aim of opposition to the Iraqi Government. But are governments and media going to continue to declare all opposition to a Western-backed Iraqi Government advance as ISIS?

    Considering the more progressive aims of the GMCIR, especially when compared to ISIS, the discontented populace under Islamic State rule, and the continued sectarian divide. Instead of military backing for a little-changed government unpopular with a large portion of the Iraqi population that would likely fester into further upheaval in future. ISIS could readily be defeated and an enduring solution achieved by engaging with various Sunni groups and reaching an agreement.

    ISIS may not necessarily be the pre-eminent group of fighters at the beginning of this situation, but considering their production of inflammatory media that heavily commercialised and sensationalist media would readily pounce upon, then the omission of much information by mass media for a convenient narrative, the emotive reaction generated is counterproductive and could be regarded as almost like promoting the group. No doubt ISIS has since gained many new recruits and a greater standing amongst those in their anti-government alliance because of this.

    Key may scare-monger with the ISIS as an apocalyptic group line. But how are the far-right Christian fundamentalist and Zionist designs in the region any different? More killing and destruction clearly isn’t the solution, and with many Middle Eastern countries having a large youthful population, the destruction of important institutions and fomenting extremism definitely won’t bode well for the future.

    • And do you honestly think there is much difference between the sacking of Jerusalem by Titus in AD 79 and that this modern day counterpart in Iraq will engender a different response?

      Of course not !…wars are profitable for world leaders today in a political sense and in a resource sense – such as it was in Caesars day.

      They do not care bout rebel groups, they would happily trade with them as long as their interests are being met.

      The big question here to ask is always ‘Who gains?’….the hows and the wheres are just the incidentals.

      Ask who….and possibly why , – and we will get a clearer picture of the truth.

  8. The Catholic Bishops ain’t watching from the sidelines they are watching through the distorted news prism that the mainstream media presents all NZ’ers How can people form valid opinions from the rubbish we are exposed to on the TV and radio. As an example TV1 TV3 and national Radio all presented very anti Russian “news about MH17. This was almost certainly rubbish as the western powers are now doing there best to suppress the facts that implicate Ukraine in this mass murder. The NZ media offers no apology but simply ramps up its anti Russian propaganda on other events. Then there is the “Beheadings” and “Jihad Jhonny”, All part of a script to arouse our hatred of Islam and engender support for the USA and its drive for war.The ISIS killings are atrocious but comparatively few in number compared to the thousands killed in Ukraine Libya and Iraq by US instigated wars. The immorality of the news media is disgusting. I feel revolted watching these comfortable self righteous talking heads spouting their US propaganda. Lets hope their god gives the Catholic Bishops a little insight into where real evil resides.

  9. Me thinks it is time for another Crusade, a vast horde of Knights Templars marching into battle with the Infidels yelling the Christian war cry “Alleluia!” King Richard the Lionheart would nod with approval from his grave.

  10. Can’t believe the Catholics support it, especially with the current pope. Hopefully just another ‘dirty politics’ diversion.

    As with Afghanistan, the US and the club are just propping up corruption, incompetence and war crimes by their appointed government and militias. Since the goal seems to be to steal the oil, NZ does not need to participate, especially as it is escalating a religious and propoganda war with locals of all countries in the middle.


    Human Rights Watch called on the Afghan government and its international backers to do more to hold the security forces to account. Despite meticulous documentation of many cases of abuse, there has not been a single prosecution for torture.

  11. I think the New Zealand bishops are basing their position on information coming out of that area by the bishops there. The Iraqi bishops in Baghdad have just had an Extraordinary Synod where they have requested that “”national and international forces to unite their efforts” to liberate territories occupied by ISIS and to “exercise the necessary influence” to provide protection for Christians and other Iraqis returning to their homes, enabling them to live in security and dignity.


    This is of course, merely my guess, I have no real idea. As a Catholic I was surprised by our bishops statement, I personally have no idea what is the right course of action. I just don’t know enough to judge.

    I suspect that our bishops get a lot of information through Church contacts, from both the clerical hierarchy and the charity organisations working there.

    Here’s another link where the archbishop of Irbil has requested military intervention.


    • @Muerk: “Here’s another link where the archbishop of Irbil has requested military intervention.”

      In that link, the archbishop comments on how large the Christian population was in Iraq under Saddam Hussein. And what happened? A military invasion by Western forces, one of the consequences of which has been the wholesale exile of (surviving) Christians from the Middle East. In virtue of what would he think that more of the same sort of intervention would bring different results? There’s an indisputable causal link between Western intervention and the catastrophic decline in Christian populations in that part of the world.

      It’s a tragic situation, but one that won’t be helped by our sticking our noses in there again. I note news today that Iran is taking the fight to ISIS; the only hope for the unfortunate people of the Middle East – Christian or Muslim – is that such polities are prepared to resist the advance of ISIS. We can’t, no matter how earnestly we might wish for it to be otherwise. We would not be welcome.

      • Yeah, the West has meddled and meddled and it’s help create (if not created completely) this mess. I truly don’t know what is the answer for all of this. I’m just not informed or educated enough to make any genuinely helpful suggestion here. What I do know is that we need to pour in help and support for those affected by this conflict. Humanitarian aid must be a priority. If we can’t stop the bombs and bullets at least we can stop hunger, disease, and hypothermia.

  12. “1. The damage inflicted by the aggressor on the nation or community of nations must be lasting, grave and certain;

    2. All other means of putting an end to it must have been shown to be impractical or ineffective;

    3. There must be serious prospects of success;

    4. The use of arms must not produce evils and disorders graver than the evil to be eliminated.”

    So when are we going to Sinaloa, then?

    “In January 2008 the cartel allegedly split into a number of warring factions, which is a major cause of the epidemic of drug violence Mexico has seen in the last year. Murders by the cartel often involve beheadings or bodies dissolved in vats of alkali and are sometimes filmed and posted on the Internet as a warning to rival gangs.” Wikipedia

    If America cannot help a neighbour get rid of people who really are causing international harms and terrorism (in the Too Hard Basket?) – what makes them think they’ll be better acting in an area many miles away? Third time lucky?

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