Pope Francis' call for action against Islamist radicals terrorizing Iraqi Christians caught the world by surprise, but it drew on centuries-old "just war" Catholic doctrine, which sanctions military force as a last resort, Catholic League president Bill Donohue told Newsmax TV
"We are not the Amish. We are not the Quakers. We are not a pacifistic religion," Donohue told "MidPoint" host Ed Berliner during a segment on the Pope and the violent Islamic State (ISIS) that included a Quaker human rights activist and an advocate for Iraq's Christian minority.
"We understand that there are certain times when only force can bring about peace," Donohue said of Catholics in general. "World War II would be an example and now we have it today."
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Even so, he said the Pope's qualified endorsement on Monday of U.S. airstrikes against ISIS is unusual. The Pontiff told reporters
on a flight that "it is licit to stop the unjust aggressor."
"I underscore the verb 'stop,' " he added. "I don't say 'to bomb' or 'make war,' [but] 'stop.' "
"Certainly, in my lifetime I've never seen anything like it," said Donohue. "The first instinct of the Catholic Church, obviously, is toward peace, diplomacy — try to work it out in a non-violent way. That's what we're used to.
"On the other hand, we do have a just war doctrine, from St. Augustine, going back centuries, so that there are certain specific criteria that the Catholic Church has laid out where war is okay."
Juliana Taimoorazy, president of the Iraqi Christian Relief Council, also welcomed the Pope's words and the focus they bring to non-Muslims in Iraq being uprooted and killed or forced to swear alliegiance to ISIS jihadists.
But she criticized the Pope's timing as "disappointing" for having come "a little too late" in a long history of genocide.
"Over a million Assyrian Christians [in Iraq] have been displaced since 2003," Taimoorazy told Berliner. "It is a little too late. But we have to come together and I'm glad the Pope has brought this up, finally, and the world is paying attention."
Quaker activist Autumn Leaf, whose paficist religion counsels against taking up arms, took issue with the Pope "endorsing some level of violence."
"In this case, I won't say I disagree with military action being a viable choice to end the violence," said Leaf. "Rather, I am speaking to the Pope's role in that, [and] what I believe he should be encouraging."
"He has the power to help shift the paradigm of almost any conflict in the world," Leaf told Berliner, "and I'd like to see the example that he sets personally take a more a more Christ-like tone to it."
The Vatican has sharply criticized
previous U.S. military actions in the Middle East.
The Catholic League's Donohue said that Church leaders view ISIS differently.
"They've seen what's going on: Children being beheaded; women being raped; people being buried alive; Christians told, 'Die or convert. You have until midnight to make up your mind,' " said Donohue. "These barbarians are [also] killing all Muslims who don't agree with them. That's why the Pope has realized we're at a tipping point: If we don't act now, we're all going to be dead. These people will stop at nothing."
Donohue also said people should not interpret the Pope's remarks as an affirmative call to arms — although a deputy, Archbishop Silvano Tomasi, the Vatican envoy to the United Nations, had previously called for "intervention now, before it is too late."
"The Pope's words were far more measured than Tomasi and some others," said Donohue.
"First of all, he wants an international community response. He also wants it to be limited.
Francis:Pope’s Hidden Life Revealed.
He certainly does not want to be interpreted as giving the green light: 'Hey, go US or Britain or NATO, and go out there and bomb them to smithereens.'
"That is not the Catholic Church's way, and that would be a misrepresentation of Pope Francis. He is saying that the crisis is so grave that he understands that in this instance, here, forces are necessary to at least try and thwart this thing from getting any further," said Donohue.
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