Open Letter to my fellow Catholics in the U.S.A.
from Robert Thompson
This is, according to the teachings of our Lord, brought down to us by the Church, a proper manner in which to address fellow members of the Body of Christ. When asked to define my religious affiliation, I reply quite happily that I am a committed practicing Catholic Christian, and I make no excuses for being such.
Here in France, it is exceptional for the Church to make any pronouncements of political matters, and the last time that this happened was when the Spokesman of our Bishops' Conference, jointly with the Chairman of the Protestant Federation, the Chairman of the national Muslim representative body and the Chief Rabbi, clearly condemned all forms of discrimination based on race, ethnicity or religion. This was in reply to populist statements made by the Front National (the neo-fascist party, the nearest thing which we have to your neo-conservatives) which were highly discriminatory. I feel it perhaps helpful to add here that the whole idea of "right" and "left" in politics comes from the lay-out of our Assemblée Nationale (the lower house of our parliament) where the Chairman looks down from his "perch" on the members sitting in a semi-circle before and below him. Furthest to the left are the Communists, then (in order) the Greens, the Socialists, the Union de la Démocratie Française (U.D.F.), the U.M.P. (the party currently in government, which supports Mr Chirac) and finally the Front National. I am a card-carrying member of the centrist U.D.F., and dislike the dogmatic approach often adopted by the Socialists (democratic left) and the U.M.P. (democratic right), but many Catholics belong to each of these parties, as also do some to the Greens. I do not in any way consider that they are acting against our commonly held beliefs, but I obviously would prefer them to join me in the U.D.F. The Communists are close to becoming a totally spent force, but I worry at any support given to the Front National which regularly shows its enmity towards, and hatred of, essential Christian tenets. In any case, an essential element in our politics is that all the democratic parties leave their elected legislators free to vote according to their consciences when matters of morality come to be considered, which we consider to be normal and correct.
We look across the Atlantic and see what, if it were not so serious, could be taken for a tragi-comic "Hollywood B movie". In the White House, or on his Ranch, we see the archetypal Connecticut Yankee Dude, who was once the Governor of Texas, with a full supporting cast. There we find the traditional characters, the hanging judge, Mr Ashcroft, the sly businessman, Mr Cheney, the slick salesman (and former close friend of Saddam Hussein), Mr Rumsfeld, and the old soldier who seems to have been tricked into serving them all, Mr Powell, with the tentacles of the Mafia-like neo-conservatives winding round, and thereby controlling, all of them.
You may well ask "What has this to do with our being Catholics, and why is he writing to us?", and this is a fair question, which I will attempt, in so far as I am able, to answer.
We have been horrified by the total disregard for the sanctity of human life, shown by this extraordinary crew. Firstly, when he was still Governor of his adopted state, Mr Bush was an enthusiastic proponent of the application of the death penalty, considered in most democratic nations to be barbarous, especially when it follows trials which fall short of the minimum standards of what we consider to be fair and just. Secondly, this same man supports the policies of such extremists as Mr. Ariel Sharon, who openly boasts of his having ordered the murders of persons who are merely suspected of certain criminal activities. He also gives his strong approval to Mr. Sharon's policy of expropriation of Palestinian lands belonging to our fellow Christians as well as to their Muslim colleagues. Were you not shocked at the siege endured by the Franciscans and the Orthodox clergy in Bethlehem? I was, and this mainly Christian area is steadily being carved up into uneconomic parcels of land which are being taken away from their owners. The claim that such a wall is necessary to separate Israel from the rest of Palestine to keep out terrorists does not bear close examination, since the Israelis could have built such a wall on "their" side of the Green Line rather than well inside the Occupied Palestinian Territories. Mr Bush continues to give support, by way of your money, substantial quantities of arms and constant backing in the United Nations, to this murderer, who not only admits his crimes but boasts about them.
This makes it all the more surprising that this man, who ordered the chaotic invasion of Iraq, thereby causing thousands more deaths of innocent human beings (including among your own armed forces), should suddenly wish to make political capital out of abortion. I am against abortion, as I oppose all unnecessary killing of any human being, but I do not see the pathetic women who resort to it as being necessarily totally evil, I consider them to be among the victims of a whole society which has gone far too far along the road of materialism and has lost touch with basic humanity. For this reason, I believe that persuasion is a better policy than legislation in the fight to save lives. As a Lawyer for over half a century, I can see no moral difference between abortion, capital punishment and waging an unjustified war against a half-starved people as in Iraq.
This brings me necessarily to the invasion of Iraq, which was roundly condemned by the Pope since before it started, although I agree that Saddam Hussein was a monster. Unlike Afghanistan, which was invaded because it refused to hand over the vicious terrorists who had, among other things, perpetrated the attacks on your country on 11th September 2001, there was no excuse for the invasion of Iraq. If the U.S.A. are to wage war against, and invade, all cruel régimes, why have they not invaded China or Saudi Arabia to take two obvious examples. The answer is simple. In the case of China, it is too powerful, and is likely before long to challenge the present status of the U.S.A. as the world's only super-power. In the case of Saudi Arabia, it is impossible to say what would result from any liberation of this highly repressive state, including "interruptions" in its oil exports. On the other hand, as a result of the sanctions which had no effect on the ruling clique but impoverished and starved the people, Iraq was clearly unable to withstand an invasion. However, it would have been better to leave any such invasion until clear plans had been prepared for the future of the country and to keep out the terrorists whom Saddam Hussein had most effectively prevented from entering the country. Please remember that Mr Oussama bin Laden criticized the Iraqi régime for being godless and socialist, but, as soon as it was invaded, he claimed that this showed that Mr Bush was continuing his "Crusade" against Islam.
As a Catholic, I could not in good conscience vote for Mr. Bush or the tarnished team which backs and controls him, since not only do they have the blood of innocents on their hands, but also they show no shame or repentance for their crimes against humanity, and I totally fail to understand how any genuine believing Catholic can contemplate voting for them.
I remain open, of course, to considering any point which any one of you might wish to put forward in favor of Mr, Bush and his team, but their record on human rights and respect for human life is so bad that I cannot imagine any argument which could persuade me.
It is appropriate to end this missive by wishing to all of you the peace of Christ, as we do in the Mass, and a great future for your country,
Yours in Christ,
Robert Thompson Robert.Thompson (at) wanadoo.fr is a retire attorney, living in France. who writes the occasional blog Thoughts from France