The U.S. Catholic Church and Iraq

This is a partial transcript from The O'Reilly Factor, February 12, 2003. Click here to order the complete transcript.

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BILL O'REILLY, HOST:  In the Unresolved Problems segment tonight, the debate over Iraq has involved almost every powerful state, including the Vatican, which has publicly come out against military action and sent a delegation to Iraq for meetings. 

But here in America, we could not find one, not one Catholic bishop who was willing to articulate the pope's position.  Very strange. 

Joining us now from Washington is Deal Hudson, the editor and publisher of Crisis magazine, which covers the Catholic Church. 

I'm a good Catholic boy, Mr. Hudson, you know?  I'm calling up Mahoney and Egan and McCoy, come on.  No way.  Not coming on, not talking about it.  No statement, no anything. 

DEAL HUDSON, CRISIS MAGAZINE:  They're media shy since the sexual abuse scandal.  I mean, they definitely have decided not to go out on any limbs they don't have to. 

They made a very strong collective statement in November against the war, but I think the president's State of the Union, combined with Secretary Powell's presentation at the U.N., have raised some doubts about the strength of their own position of being against this war. 

And finally, there's been -- there have been so many comments coming out of the Vatican against this war, I think they're content to let the Vatican carry the ball in articulating what the Vatican feels is the reason why the war isn't just. 

O'REILLY:  Yes, but why don't they come on and do that?  It seems to me, if there is a sincerity at the highest levels of the American Catholic church and they really do believe that the war is wrong, they should be out there with Susan Sarandon, carrying the signs, getting their faces on television and their voices on radio, articulating why they feel this is wrong. 

I mean, what's the point in having a Catholic church that believes strongly in something if they will not go out and tell you what they believe and why?

HUDSON:  Well, what they should be telling us they believe strongly in are the principles of just war theory.  There is no place in the Catholic church, for the pope, for the bishops or anybody, to tell individual Catholics where they should stand on a specific war. 

In fact, Cardinal Lautsinger (ph) issued a document last week which specifically said that the church should not use its power where individual freedom of judgment was concerned. 

And that's surely the case here with Iraq.  So in a way, they're just abiding by their own rules. 

O'REILLY:  Well, why don't they say that?  You don't think, Mr. Hudson, that people understand what you just said.  That's the first time I ever heard it. 

You know, the late Cardinal O'Connor was a military chaplain.  He was involved with conflict all the time. 

But what I'm seeing here is I'm seeing a continuation of cowardice on the part of the American clerics, where they didn't come forward with the sex scandal, now they're running for cover over the war, any kind of controversy these guys bury their head in the pew.  Okay?

They don't want to be heard, they don't want to be seen.  They are afraid.  Am I wrong?

HUDSON:  I don't think it's cowardice.  I think it's confusion.  You know, on the one hand, many of them individually are against this war but they know it's not their job as bishops to go out and try to force their hands with individual Catholics.

And what they should be doing is what the holy father has done and talk about the principles of just war.  For example, is it a last resort?

O'REILLY:  Well, why don't they do that?  Why don't they do that?  They don't do anything.  You say you don't think it's cowardice.  I do -- I mean, I have to tell you, these people will not give you any information about their finances, about sex scandals, about war, the things that Americans need moral leadership on. 

Why are they there?  For what reason are these people there if not to interpret what Jesus Christ might do, might think?  Why are they there?

HUDSON:  Well, they're there to teach faith and morals to all of us who are Catholics. 

But, you know, since Cardinal O'Connor, we've not really had a cardinal in this country who was very good in handling the media.

O'REILLY:  You bet.

HUDSON:  And we really need one of them to step forward and take over that job.

O'REILLY:  But isn't it true there is no moral leadership in the American Catholic church right now, isn't that a fact?

HUDSON:  There's no moral leadership at the level of the The O'Reilly Factor, but there is moral leadership at the level of archdioceses and the diocese. 

O'REILLY:  Now that's a good point.  I mean, there are great priests operating in the parishes, and that's an excellent point. 

HUDSON:  But we need somebody to get on your show and make a case. 

O'REILLY:  You absolutely do.  And I know they don't like me because of the Cardinal Law situation.  But I will stand behind our coverage of Cardinal Law all day long.  The man is a villain.  And it took them way too long to get rid of him. 

And it did tremendous damage to my church.  I'm part of that church.  And Cardinal Law himself was like him taking a hammer and smashing that church because of his selfishness and for not resigning when he should have. 

I'll give you the last word. 

HUDSON:  You know, one thing that's going on when these bishops don't come on your show, is they don't want to come on and become the good guy bishop when there's a context of bad guy bishops. 

They don't want to take advantage of that situation.  They're very collegiate.  But I think to a fault. 

O'REILLY:  OK, Mr. Hudson, thank you very much for your point of view.  We appreciate it. 

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