Does the Vatican have a Realistic Plan to Confront Evil in Today's World?

This is a partial transcript from "The O'Reilly Factor," April 4, 2005, that has been edited for clarity.

Watch "The O'Reilly Factor" weeknights at 8 p.m. and 11 p.m. ET and listen to the "Radio Factor!"

BILL O'REILLY, HOST: In the "Unresolved Problems" segment tonight: deliver us from evil. That request is a focal point of The Lord's Prayer (search), as you know. And all of us in America are facing evil right now in the form of Islamic terrorists who want to kill us.

Five days after 9/11, Pope John Paul II said: "[Mother] Mary welcomes the dead, consoles the survivors, supports those families who are particularly tried, and helps all to resist the temptation of hate and violence and to commit themselves to the service of justice and peace."

The pope also urged restraint in avenging the attack, but did not directly criticize the U.S. action in Afghanistan. The Holy See did, however, oppose the action in Iraq, feeling war could have been avoided.

The question, does the Vatican have a realistic plan to confront evil in today's world? Joining us now from San Francisco, Sally Vance-Trambath, a theology professor at the University of San Francisco (search). And from Nashville, Tennessee, Reverend Donald Sensing, who officiates at the Trinity United Methodist Church (search).

OK, professor, we begin with you. San Francisco, University of San Francisco is a Catholic College in the middle of Gomorrah (search). And it's an interesting city you live in, because it's the capital of secularism in the United States.

But those of us who do want guidance and believe me, I do, I mean, I want as much guidance as I can get, spiritual, temporal and everything else, didn't get very much guidance in the war on terror. Did you get it? Did I miss it?

SALLY VANCE-TREMBATH, THEOLOGY PROFESSOR: Oh, I think so. And I have to say, Bill, I don't--Mr. O'Reilly, I don't think that San Francisco's anymore a Gomorrah than the rest of the world. There's good and evil all over the world.

But did I get guidance in terms of the war on terror? Sure, from the Pope John Paul II, sure I did.

O'REILLY: All right, what is that -- what kind of guidance did you get from the pope vis-a-vis Al Qaeda and the other killers?

VANCE-TREMBATH: Well, he's advanced the Catholic teaching on "just war," which is that you have to avoid violence. And you have to, in particular, work on development in the underdeveloped world.

Because we have to get at the heart of what is driving the Islamic fundamentalists. And that is poverty, lack of opportunity. I mean, that's what's behind what you're characterizing as evil.

And I don't minimize that the attacks on us were evil. They surely were evil acts. But Pope John Paul II (search) himself advanced the notion that if you want justice, if you want freedom, if you want harmony among the human community, you work to distribute the world's goods. You work to -- you work for forgiveness of old hurts and angers, you know, deep wounds of division between the Muslim world and the Christian world and the Jewish world.

He gave us lots of counsel about how to do that. And by the way, he stood on the shoulders of two great other popes. When you talk about, you know, what's the Vatican's stance, I mean John the 23rd was the great pope for advancing world peace. And his wonderful...

O'REILLY: All right, but it's a different world now. You know, we have people in the world who will kill us, and -- Reverend, they will do it for no real reason.

Yes, there's injustice in the world. There's poverty in the world. but there's always going to be -- that not -- and we are a very generous nation, as everybody knows. We give more money than anyone else privately. And we freed billions of people around the world.

So to me, being the target, and I understand it's good what the pope says, but that doesn't help my immediate concern on how to deal with Al Qaeda. Did you get any guidance there, Reverend?

DONALD SENSING, REV., METHODIST MINISTER: No, I spent quite a bit of time reading the -- Pope John Paul II's statements on world peace and conflict resolution, going all the way back to 1982. And I don't think it's very concrete.

It is very idealistic. And that's commendable. It's also, though, I think and the professor may want to check me on this, I think it's got a fairly heavy escatalogical tone in which these things of justice and love and forgiveness and reconciliation are really going to happen in the Holy Spirit's good time.

In the meantime, though, we have to live in the everyday life in the here and now. And while I agree that the United States should be a beacon of truth and should be a beacon of freedom, and the hard case of what to do to protect ourselves against further attack, and to ensure that the root causes, as people are loving to say, are addressed and eliminated, is a very, very difficult question. And the concreteness of what actions to do, I really haven't seen a lot of them and Vatican's...

O'REILLY: All right, I think that's a fair assessment, professor, that Pope John Paul II spoke in the theoretical. He spoke in the spiritual.

But you know, by -- if I could interview the pope, I would have loved to have done it, --I would have said, gee, you know, Saddam Hussein (search) was in power for 30 years and killed almost a million people. Was that OK with you, Holy Father, since you didn't want the United States to forcibly remove him? What do you think he would have answered there, professor?

VANCE-TREMBATH: Well, I think he would have said that violence rarely, not never, because sometimes we do have to violently intervene, and Pope John Paul II did not deny that sometimes we need to use force...

O'REILLY: Yes, I would have asked him that concrete question about Saddam, since the Holy See did actually comment specifically on Iraq. And I don't know what the answer would have been...

Is the Holy Father OK with a million people in the grave because of a dictator like Saddam? Is he OK with Pol Pot (search)? How about Adolf Hitler (search)? How about Stalin (search)? These people killed millions and millions of human beings, yet the Holy See does not advocate preemptive action against them.

VANCE-TREMBATH: Well, I think that's where you have to measure. I mean, it's a longstanding tradition in Catholicism to -- you know, to make a proportionate, prudent judgment about what you're doing.

And you know, one could make an argument, Mr. O'Reilly, that while Saddam, you know, did -- he was an evil person and he killed many people, --but you have to ask the question, have we created more harm and more long- term terrorists by going in the way we did?

O'REILLY: I think when you have a million people in the ground, the answer would be obviously at this juncture in history, no.

We'll have more with Reverend Sensing and Professor Vance-Trembath in a moment.


O'REILLY: Continuing now with our "Unresolved Problems" segment, confronting evil in a very dangerous world. We're talking with theology professor Sally Vance-Trembath and with Methodist minister Donald Sensing.

So Reverend, do you think it's important for the Holy See to take a strong, moral position in confronting evil in this world? I mean, you're a Protestant. Do you take them seriously? Do you listen to him at all?

SENSING: I take the Vatican's theological pronouncements very seriously. I've found in all manner of subjects, I think they're extremely well informed and they are in accordance with historic church traditions.

One of the things that I'm troubled by though in reading the history of the Vatican's pronouncements on matters relating to the War on Terror is, I don't see that there's a great comprehension on the strategic picture that the United States was facing.

Now I don't expect that the pope or anyone else in the Vatican would be a grand strategist like a graduate of the National Defense University. But I would expect that if they're going to attempt to instruct us on how we should conduct our strategy in accordance with Catholic dogma and doctrine, that there would at least be an understanding of what the national strategy of the United States is and how it was formed, and what it intends to do.

One of the issues that I've wrestled with, and I'm a retired Army officer, and I wasn't a chaplain, I was an artilleryman, is I look at teachings of an American liberations theologian named James Scone (search). And what he said was, in facing violence, the issue for the Christian is not whether there should be violence or not. Because in cases of oppression or attack, violence is already there. The issue for the Christian is whether to use violence to resist oppression is a greater evil than the oppression itself.

O'REILLY: OK, professor...

SENSING: And that's a tough question.

O'REILLY: you want to speak to that, professor?

VANCE-TREMBATH: Well, sure. I mean, therein lies the Christian life. I mean, you -- we're always making judgments about, you know, how we're going to approach this real concrete situation.

And I agree with the pastor, that one of the sources of great wisdom in the Catholic tradition is that emphasis on what you've been calling, you know, the secularity. I mean, secularity, simply meaning the world... That you really look at the real situation and you understand that what John Paul, what Jesus actually called "the signs of the times." And you try to respond with the Gospel of Jesus Christ, with the message of Jesus Christ to the real situation that you're dealing with.

O'REILLY: But here's an interesting conundrum. The president uses the same tact, says I put my decision making in the hands of God. But his God, the president's, is different from Pope John Paul II's God, because they come to different conclusions.

And those of us who, and I think we're all good people here, well, you two are, I don't know about me, but we're all trying to get the right answer. And it's very confusing.

Reverend, I'm going to give you the last word. Go ahead.

SENSING: Well, I think that in coping with terrorism, there's a thing to remember, too is that we are not dealing with an enemy that has formulated its tactics and strategy and indeed its whole theology out of a Christian basis. And John Paul's theology of war and violence was supremely Christian.

But he was trying to build bridges when there was no really place to put an abutment on the other side.

O'REILLY: I agree with you.

SENSING: And so that makes it tough to do.

O'REILLY: OK, reverend, and professor, very interesting discussion. Thanks very much.

Content and Programming Copyright 2005 Fox News Network, L.L.C. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED. Transcription Copyright 2005 eMediaMillWorks, Inc. (f/k/a Federal Document Clearing House, Inc.), which takes sole responsibility for the accuracy of the transcription. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED. No license is granted to the user of this material except for the user's personal or internal use and, in such case, only one copy may be printed, nor shall user use any material for commercial purposes or in any fashion that may infringe upon Fox News Network, L.L.C.'s and eMediaMillWorks, Inc.'s copyrights or other proprietary rights or interests in the material. This is not a legal transcript for purposes of litigation.