Last evening, I attended an important event focusing on the first amendment right of religious liberty. This is critically important as religious liberty, domestically and globally, is currently threatened in diverse and challenging ways. In the gift bag was a miniature copy of the Constitution.
Since it was the eve of the Memorial Day weekend, I perused it and found Section 8 that states very simply: “Congress shall have the power… to declare War.” This weekend we will remember with appreciation and prayer those who gave their lives fighting wars. Sadly, our political system is so paralyzed and compromised that with regularity men and women of the United States are being put in harm’s way without Congress exercising this constitutional power. I understand the rationalizations that many of these military actions are not really “wars.” I understand there are some general and dated Congressional resolutions that provide “cover.” I simply do not accept them as adequate to risk the lives of our fellow citizens nor wreck damage and death in other countries or populations. I am neither an isolationist nor a pacifist. Tragically, wars are necessary and justified at times. I simply believe that when those times come – and they may be very rare – we all need to own and accept responsibility for those decisions. Those elected, from every district throughout the United States, need to make a careful and considered vote and then stand for re-election to be affirmed or rebuffed. Insisting that Congress exercise its Constitutional power before we engage in war would be a great step toward inhibiting premature military actions and fostering alternatives actions. Let us pray this Memorial Day Weekend for the far too many victims of wars. Let us pray for peace. Let us pray for our nation, and for each of us, that we may have the courage to accept responsibility for the important actions we need to take.
Listen to George Horton, Director of the Department of Social and Community Development at Catholic Charities, talk about his experience during the Vietnam War.