William F. Buckley
It is widely noticed that the faithful attending religious services are greatly vexed by the divide between religious counselors (the majority of them) and the counsel of their political leaders. We learn that Southern Baptist Convention leaders and some evangelical and Pentecostal leaders have rallied behind President Bush, but mainline Protestant leaders oppose him, and of course the pope has spoken repeatedly against his policy. Jewish leaders, The New York Times reports, are "deeply split."

One begins by acknowledging that political agendas have a way of crowding out theological questions, as with the Most Rev. Frank Griswold, who is the presiding bishop of the Episcopal Church. His recent protest included the statement that "I'd like to be able to go somewhere in the world and not have to apologize for being from the United States." New York Episcopal Bishop (retired) Paul Moore has been criticizing America for years, inveighing against poverty, corporate greed, racism, nuclear arms, military spending and war, which is OK, but oughtn't to be thought uniquely American inventions.

Indeed, some clergy short-circuited such respect as they'd be thought ex officio to have by their categorical alienation from America. The writer Fred Barnes ended his piece in The Wall Street Journal about "pious denunciations" by noting Bishop Griswold's petition to meet with Mr. Bush so that he and other religious leaders might "share our perspectives with him." Barnes commented: "That would be a waste of time for Mr. Bush -- and an embarrassment to Episcopalians like me."

Such critics are not to be deliberated on, except if they happen to say something arresting or original, even as movie-star protesters can be ignored unless one of them comes up with an epiphany, in thought or language.

But this, of course, does not apply to Pope John Paul. He cannot be accused of blindsided anti-Americanism, so that the weight of his office can't be lightly discarded. Catholics correctly proceed knowing that even in matters of war and peace, the pope's particular judgments are questions less of morals than of prudence. We can proceed to deliberate his words confident that the pope's opposition to the war is not a criticism of American institutions. Rather, it is criticism of going to war in the current crisis.


William F. Buckley

William F. Buckley, Jr. is editor-at-large of National Review, the prolific author of Miles Gone By: A Literary Autobiography.

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