The meaning of propaganda has evolved from simple advertising to promoting biased and misleading information. The art of gleaning facts from various propaganda outlets has become increasingly difficult. Indeed, the mainstream media have mostly become organs of institutional (primarily liberal) propaganda.
Catholic priests, especially in their official capacities, must not distort the Gospel message by repeating propaganda and stay in their lane when enunciating Christian principles. But as Americans, the clergy also have a right to political views, provided they make clear distinctions separating their religious office from their secular opinions. This article is written by an American (call me “Jerry”) and concludes with a brief priestly exhortation (call me “Father”).
There is truth to the Goebbels “Big Lie” maxim often attributed to him: If you tell a lie big enough and keep repeating it long enough, people will eventually come to believe it. Increasingly, outright lies comprise portions of modern propaganda. But the most effective propaganda is the critical falsehood couched in a comfortable cushion of truth. A few examples: the Russia election interference hoax; the Hunter Biden laptop computer obfuscation by former intelligence officials; BLM violence reported as “largely peaceful”; COVID dissembling; the refusal to investigate attacks on pro-life centers as worthy news; and the failure to analyze FBI police state tactics.
The propaganda and policies have become liberal conventional wisdom, and even the tech giants will not permit dissent. So most people in mid to large government and corporate organizations know their place and remain compliant with silence.
Many of the same propaganda organs are reporting on the war in Ukraine. We are much less likely to believe the general course proposed by a media that happily parrots falsehoods. So perhaps this bundle of various positions (gleaned, for better or worse, from many sources) provokes a desire for facts to prove, disprove, or clarify the respective “propaganda” narratives with integrity.
Let’s begin with pro-Ukraine propaganda
Since the beginning, the same government and media outlets generally indicate that a properly supported Ukraine will successfully repel the Russian invasion. The media have reported Russian aggression, Putin’s dictatorial madness, the incompetence of the Russian military, and the oppression of Russians under Putin’s thumb. Putin poses a threat to the integrity of nations in the new world order. LGBTQ minority groups also suffer under Putin. Who knows how the Russian occupation will affect the Western progressive culture? The Russians deliberately attack civilian targets, including nuclear power plants, electrical grids, and infrastructure targets.
The propaganda warns that a Russian victory in the Russian sectors of Ukraine will also threaten all of Ukraine, the Baltics, the Balkans, Poland, and even other Western countries. Putin is an expansionist and wants to restore the old Soviet Union. So America must do all in its power to defend its European allies regardless of NATO membership. Some conservative U.S. politicians and officials even hope for Russian regime change and the assassination of Putin.
The Russians will soon deplete their stock of munitions. Russia illegally annexed occupied Russian-speaking Ukrainian territories (Donetsk, Luhansk, Kherson, and Zaporizhzhia). Economic sanctions will destroy the Russian economy. Ukraine will win in a glorious counteroffensive, provided the West supplies the country with sufficient military and financial assistance.
Western propaganda dismisses the Russian explanation for the invasion as “Russian propaganda.” Putin need not fear Ukrainian membership in NATO. On the eve of the war’s outbreak in February, Ukraine expressed readiness for talks with Russia on neutral status. The Ukrainian position has hardened. President Zelensky said there would be no negotiations with Putin. “We are ready for a dialogue with Russia, but … with another president of Russia.” The Ukraine ambassador to Germany greeted Elon Musk’s proposal for negotiations with “F— off is my very diplomatic reply to you @elonmusk.”
No negotiations. No compromise. Total victory.
Then there’s pro-Russian propaganda
Western propaganda organs quickly dismiss assertions justifying the Russian invasion as unreasonable. But all propaganda is worth considering in light of the facts, however elusive they may be.
The NATO threat justified the aggressive Russian response. Since 2008 (the Bucharest Summit) and well before, Putin vehemently objected to the expansion of NATO into Ukraine, threatening Russian security. Ukraine was never a unified country in history, with swaths of territory belonging to Russia, including Crimea. Even today, these swaths are generally Russian-speaking with generally Russian allegiances. Western Ukrainians often oppress Ukrainian Russians. Nazi influence in Ukraine remains an open sore, a holdover from WWII and Ukraine’s cooperation with the German invaders.
Putin does not intend to seize greater Ukraine despite his feint attack on Kiev early in the war. His interest is restricted to the eastern Russian-speaking portion of the country and extends to Crimea, effectively annexed by Russia in 2014. U.S., NATO, and Ukrainian propaganda distort Russian intentions. Western pressure effectively neutered Zelensky’s openness to negotiations at the war’s beginning.
Had Putin not invaded the eastern region of Ukraine — and if a fragmented Ukraine joins NATO — the West would permanently control Russian-speaking sectors. Russian subjugation by the West is intolerable. Annexing Russian-speaking sectors is necessary before it becomes impossible without violating Article 5 of the NATO charter. Article 5 states that an attack on one member of NATO is an attack on all its members.
Video of Ukrainian torture of Russian prisoners has unified Russian public opinion. The attack on the new Russian bridge in Crimea was an act of Western terrorism calling for a lethal response.
In 2014, the CIA succeeded in aiding a coup in Ukraine that replaced a pro-Russian Ukraine President with an anti-Russian President. NATO’s goals are aggressively anti-Russian. The intolerable meddling reveals the existential threat to Russia by the U.S. and NATO. Trump was unpredictable and not beholden to the military establishment. Biden’s weakness – especially following the fall of Afghanistan – is demonstrable. It was time to make a bold strike to protect long-term Russian interests.
Don’t forget anti-Interventionist propaganda
A small but growing number of conservatives are propagating their opposition to American foreign interventions, with a minority of conservatives (and libertarians) opposing involvement in the Ukraine war. Some defend the Russian action for the reasons indicated above. Others are agnostic due to the shortage of reliably meaningful facts. They argue that the NATO alliance has outlived its usefulness and that Americans have no business taking sides – once again – in an area that is too complicated even for the Europeans. The details of the failed Minsk agreements in 2014 and 2015 reveal entanglements that the U.S. will never understand, much less resolve. Slavic history is too complicated for most Americans and most foreign policy professionals. America has no significant strategic interest in the fight.
Ukraine is historically fragmented and corrupt, run by oligarchs. (There is a saying among Europeans: “Ukrainian oligarchs choose their leaders; Russian leaders choose their oligarchs.” In America, the oligarchs run the military-industrial complex. I added the last to be inclusive.) The Russians are unlikely to have designs in the rest of Europe because their military strength is limited.
Anti-interventionists are suspicious of mainstream pro-Ukraine propaganda. Expansionism is a tall order for an army that the West identifies as incompetent, crumbling, and bumbling. The West tacitly admits this by prolonging the war with immense financial and military assistance to Ukraine. Anti-interventionists believe that nuclear escalation is not in the interest of the Russians despite Putin’s saber-rattling in response to Western threats. Running long-term covert counter-insurgency operations is doomed to failure.
The anti-interventionists hold that the U.S. and the West are wasting the lives of Ukrainian soldiers, but all parties are misreporting casualty figures. The upcoming winter will be a terrible blow to Ukraine and Western Europe. There is an urgency to negotiate a settlement to save lives and to prevent a massive attack by the Russians in the Ukraine winter. Putin is willing to expand the war. He is also ready to negotiate without surrendering occupied territories.
While we’re at it, anti-anti-interventionist propaganda
Mostly in agreement with pro-Ukraine propaganda and the chances for eventual Ukraine victory, many conservatives are appalled by Republican and libertarian anti-interventionists. The U.S. must retain its military might, defend its allies, and defeat the Russian Bear before it gobbles up Europe. The intricacies of Russian and European history are inconsequential to victory. The anti-interventionists are “radical libertarians,” liberals, heretics to the Reagan legacy, and Putin stooges.
Prominent American foreign policy professionals call for draconian measures to defeat the Russians. Former White House national security adviser John Bolton calls for regime change and even the assassination of Putin because Putin is threatening to use nuclear weapons. “I think we should make it clear publicly so that not just Putin but that all the top Russian leadership… that if Putin authorizes the use of a nuclear weapon he’s signing his own suicide note.” He adds, “He’s a legitimate military target… he needs to know that he’s on our target list at this point.”
The anti-anti-interventionists are in league with the Democrats, voting – by wide margins in Congress – for immense financial and military assistance to Ukraine. They are more militant than the Democrats and criticize Democrats for not going far enough in resisting Russian aggression. They fear Russian use of tactical nukes and promise a swift and lethal nuclear response.
Former secretary of state and CIA director Mike Pompeo criticizes the half-measures of the Biden Administration. He contends that the Administration and NATO must confront Russia more directly and use America’s economic leverage over China to force Chinese leaders to “constrain” Vladimir Putin. Otherwise, Putin will likely use nuclear weapons in Ukraine, China will invade Taiwan, and Iran will strike Israel. America’s goal, Pompeo writes, must be a “rapid, comprehensive victory by Ukraine.”
Not to be outdone, here’s propaganda of my own
The scenario provided here is mere guesswork based on the preceding competing propaganda models in search of supporting facts. Take it or leave it. The U.S., the West, and Ukraine will not likely bring an end to the war. The Republican hawks are out of power until at least 2024. Traditional Democrat half-measures and the reluctance to commit troops and air cover will, paradoxically, prevent a nuclear escalation as it prolongs the conflict. The Democrats can also expect a political bonus. Their continuing but comparatively tepid support of Ukraine will effectively divide the Republicans.
During the winter months, while Ukraine and the Western Europe populations freeze with gas shortages, Russia will pound parts of western Ukraine into submission. Many Ukraine officials and oligarchs will flee (if they haven’t already) and blame the West for insufficient aid. Russia will consolidate its gains in the Russian-speaking eastern sectors of Ukraine, secure its progress with troops, and eventually gain the support of the Russian-speaking population. Putin will demand that the rest of Ukraine remain a buffer state, but the West will resist negotiations and lodge repeated official protests. An uneasy unofficial ceasefire will prevail for many years. Russia, China, India, North Korea (and others) will form a new international political and economic bloc. Most Americans will lose interest as financial woes preoccupy America.
Ukraine will squander the vast quantities of American weaponry, leaving the U.S. with a dangerously depleted inventory. China will take advantage of the weakness and threaten to annex Taiwan. Another diplomatic and military drama will unfold.
Republicans will blame Republicans for the failure of the policy of American interventionism. Like the collapse of Afghanistan, the war in Ukraine will badly wound — but not break — the now-traditional interventionist American posture.
As usual, except for the foreign policy elites, we are mere spectators to the continuing crisis in Ukraine. In addition to the inability to receive reliable information on the war, we (de facto) no longer have the right to require our chosen representatives to declare war according to the terms of the U.S. Constitution.
Exercising priestly authority, the clerics must dutifully decry the carnage and encourage a just solution. The laity has the responsibility to address the mess. As Americans – distinctly and consciously apart from their official religious duties – priests have a right to express political views, careful to avoid violating the consciences of those with opposing views.
The Dominican chaplain of the Knights of Columbus recently wrote that the Knights of Columbus Ukraine Solidarity Fund financially supports Ukraine war refugees. As long as the funds do not line the pockets of Ukraine politicians and oligarchs, the fund sounds like a noble enterprise.
However, the priest violated the boundaries separating the religious from the secular spheres when he writes — as the appointed chaplain of the Knight of Columbus: “In the face of the ongoing tragedy of war, injustice and humanitarian disaster inflicted by Russia on Ukraine, no one can remain indifferent. As the world continues to witness the steadfast struggle for freedom that the people of Ukraine endure….” (October 2022 | VOLUME 14 NUMBER 9 | KOFC.ORG/CHAPLAINS)
Sorry, Father. You are writing on behalf of the Church under the auspices of the Knights of Columbus. You are entitled to express your political opinion as an American with truth in labeling. Argue well, but provide the necessary caveats. Do not invoke your priestly authority where it doesn’t belong. Just as it is doubtful that Russia is without sin, it is also improbable that Ukraine, NATO, Western Europe, and the United States are without sin.
A priestly prayer: Pray for an end to the bloodshed and all injustice. Pray for the propagation of the facts that form the basis of truth. May God give us the grace to respond with Christian virtue.
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Re: The war in Ukraine. I cannot help but believe that this would not have happened had Donald Trump been elected. Putin is among other things a bully and he took the measure of Biden and found him wanting – Biden would huff and puff but nothing else.
My thoughts too. People like Putin sense weakness.
I agree, but as I recall, the Ukraine used to have their own nuclear arsenal, which the West pressured them into giving up some years ago, with promises we would protect them. If true, then this has been in preparation for some time
Whatever one may say of Putin, and of Trump, I think this perspective could use a small tweak. One absolutely agrees that thousands of Ukrainians would still be alive had Donald J. Trump been reelected. But the reason is slightly different: Trump would not have encouraged, indeed pushed, Kiev into attempting to liquidate the ethnically Russian parts of the country. He would have put his foot down.
Yet, this move toward liquidation is exactly what occurred under Biden’s watch (perhaps, exactly as a provocation). So it is not that Trump is so tough, but that (ironical and unbelievable to those who have Trump-Derangement-Syndrome) he is more rational, humane, and non-ideological than his successor.
The Ukraine gave up nuclear weapons (and attachment to NATO) as part of the deal to bury the USSR peacefully. They were not given some guarantee of defence against Russia. Quite the converse, there was an assumption that, formal severing aside, the Ukraine would stay generally in the camp of Russia, and that it would be Russia that might defend the Ukraine from “Western” encroachment.
Some countries are bloody-minded, and some countries are bloody-minded and cannot be trusted. One must guess as to which group Russia belongs, and to which group the “USA” belong(s).
Trump has a far better track record at avoiding war and promoting peace than Biden does.
As a former member of the U.S. Armed Forces, for over 25 years, having long since moved on, I remember the day I read what I would call a rsthrr chilling essay some 20-or-more years ago…I believe it was in the WSJ…declaring thst the USA (and the US military) needs “a new pagan ethos.”
That essay was written by Robert Kaplan, a man called a “neo-conservative.” He is the husband of Victoria Nuland, a primary player and Ukraine-War-Hawk in the US State Department under Biden, and likewise a key player in the Bush administration, as co-architect if “regime-change” ideology in the “second-and-failed” Iraq War.
You can read some observations snd voncerns about Kagan (and hence Victoria Nuland) in the article below, from Cirst Things, 20 years ago. It includes Kagan’s call for “a new pagan ethos.”
Kagan and Nuland are war-hawks for US-led wars and oroxy-wars of regime change around the world.
When Donald Trump criticized the Clinton-Bush-Obama military and foreign policy for promoting “stupid” wars, Trump was attacking the mindset of Kagan and Numand and other “neo-cons.”
When at the Republican convention in 2016, Laura Ingraham made a rousing speech against the Washington-establishment and accused it of promoting “war-without-end,” she was tslking against Kagan snd Nuland and ither “neo-cons” that had promoted the “wars-to-spread-democracy” and “wars-of-nation-building” in Iraq and Afghanistan.
It’s easy to see now that our beloved United States of America is drifting away from any claim that it is a force for good in the world. Our political and educational and medical and corporate and military establishments promote a total opposition and hatred and outright persecution of citizens who believe in Judeo-Christian morality, and these establishments promote the pathological ideologies of abortion, fornication, sodomy, adultery, gender-bending, and now child-mutilation-experimentation-for-profit.
This is what it means to be a “neo-conservative.” It means that many political elites like the Clintons, the Bushes, the Obamas and the Bidens all think like and agree with Jagsn and Nuland.
For “neo-cons” (who are not conservative people in sny sense of the word), the US now exists to wage war to spread abortion, the sex revolution, pornography, sodomy, child-mutilstion-experiments, and all of the other manifestations of “the new pagan ethos.”
Among other things, the above-named elites and their establishment allies are at war against truly conservative, Judeo-Christian citizens in the United States, and are weaponizing the US federal government agencies, especially now US law enforcement, to outlaw “the free excercise of religion” by observant Jews and Christians.
There is simply no denying this fact, niw that we have witnessed the hostility of the DOJ and the FBI in repeatedly harassing and threatening peaceful pro-life citizens “at-gunpoint-with-dawn-SWAT-team-raids.”
This is who and what we are dealing with, twisted snd sinister people like Barrack Obama, who was videotaped decltsfter his election that be will run the US government “to reward our friends and punish our enemies.”
I think the Caldwell and Mearsheimer and Kernan viewpoints and warnings about not over-reaching in Ukraine are being jettisoned by the Kagans and Bushes and Obsmas snd Bidens, because they see Ukraine as a chance to spread their new paganism, which they are devilishly devoted yo here at home.
It makes me think that in the Book of Revelation, when it tslks sbout the wsr between Gog and Magig, that the USA is becoming Magog, and has morphed into what Solzhenitsen wsrned against in his commencement address at Harvard (after the fall of the USSR if I recall correctly?).
After a military retiree gloated on TV while watching the night Baghdad was blown up during Shock and Awe, a later observation was, what stood out in what we brought to Iraq was whiskey and pornography. After a military retiree gloated on TV while watching the night Baghdad was blown up during Shock and Awe, a later observation was, what stood out in what we brought to Iraq was whiskey and pornography.
I would add besides the unnecessary death of hundreds of thousands of Iraqis, the filling of VP Dick Cheney’s pockets with cash from his Halliburton oil interests. The death knell of one of the world’s most venerable Christian communities. The alliance of Iraq with Iran.
You are absolutely right Fr. Morello.
The Iraq invasion by the USA was a horrible mistake and a transgression that violated the Christian principles of just cause for war, and we as a nation are utterly guilty of the death and destruction we unleashed upon the Iraqi people, as well as outown wounded and killed US soldiers.
What a horrendous nightmare we unleashed.
And forgive me for omitting, myself an Army veteran the thousands of our bravest killed, and far more terribly maimed for life. They fought well with the thought of preventing the threat of a nuclear armed Saddam Hussein that never was confirmed – all we found were destroyed weapons and systems by Iraq in compliance with the first Iraq War defeat.
Yes Father, I agree entirely. It is heartbreaking that western intervention is often viewed as Christian intervention when in reality the chasm could not be wider. The destruction of Saddam Hussein and Gaddifi are two low points purely from the vindictive pleasure the ‘Christian’ west seemed to derive from them.
Alice, Libya’s Muammar Gaddafi complied with US demands to dismantle his nuclear program. Despite this, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton engineered a Libyan rebellion and his death. Our embassy team in Benghazi were left to die without Hillary intervening to protect them. That followed with Isis domination in E Libya [most of the foreign Isis elements previously fighting in Iraq were from E Libya].
This absurd US policy convinced other radical nations that compliance with demands to halt nuclear weapons programs would have no beneficial effect. A putative rationale for Iran’s resistance.
The same type US neocons are fomenting nuclear war with Russia. When we abandon God, advocate abortion, transsexualism, sexual mutilation of children, our reason becomes warped as is our irrational policy in Ukraine.
Best post – exactly correct… I had a post with many Russian complaints against NATO and Ukraine but it disappeared. Father left out a lot on the Russian side of things. Ironically the errors of Russia have spread throughout the world but it seems Mother Russia is resisting the globalist Beast.
My comment was for Chris in Maryland
Just so you understand, I am not rooting for the Russians, and I hope that two parties fail here:
1. Putin and his maniacs; and
2. The maniacal US neo-con warmongers.
Many excellent points, Chris. Of course, Carl might not like it and comment along the following lines: CO: “Thank you” for your “lecture” disguised as a “comment”.
However, I appreciate some comments providing helpful insights to benefit all of us, and the length of helpful comments does not offend me, nor does it really offend others except petty people, and so I say thank you for the comment that provides much beneficial food for thought.
I would simply add in agreement with you that neo-cons are indeed frequent allies of elite leftists, and using the USA to try to impose certain things on the rest of the world is often presented or at least understood as a form of Pax Americana…..but such is always based on the largely secular vision of the elites your comment shines an exposing light upon.
I’m beginning to think that America is like a married couple whose family life is rancorous and who are seriously considering a divorce going to the home of their next door neighbor to offer advice about how to resolve that couple’s marital disharmony. America has lost the moral high ground because it’s own house is in disarray (we are fast becoming a police State under the sway of Deep State). In fact, because our Catholic Church is indistinguishable from the dominant culture (just what our bishops have been advocating), we, too, have lost the moral high ground in the view of the world at large.
Like before, Ukraine is just another front for the Nazis to fight on. They are just another delusive version of the same old Hitleresque new world order (third Reich) from nearly a century ago. The IRS is going to be the Nazified police force they will use to establish their Gestapo here. We are just another version of the Christianesque nations who sat and watched it happen before WWII and we are going to get the same results this time…only worse. God help us.
14,000 murdered by Ukes in Russian speaking areas by artillery since the U.S. instigated coup of 2014
Russian SMO launched to prevent Ukes invasion of breakaway Russian speaking areas
Irregular Nazi militias warring against Russian speakers
Ukrainian suppression of Russian speaking citizens
Massive corruption in Ukraine involving US politicians including the present demented occupant of the White House
The consent of the governed demonstrated by plebiscites
The violation of Western promises not to expand NATO
The legitimacy of a Russian claim to a Monroe type doctrine
The moral turpitude of Zelenskyy and his utterly corrupt sponsor
Russian resistance to the globalist New World Order
The claim that Ukraine is not a country
A very good article, as was a previous one by you on the Ukraine war. But, I do disagree with one thing that you said. “But as
Americans, the clergy also have a right to political views, provided they make clear distinctions separating their religious office from their secular opinions.”
The clergy do have a right to political opinions, and they might express them to a friend. But, in terms of any public statement, they cannot separate there religious office from their secular opinions. On a political issue no one would say, “Jerry said this.” They would always say , “Father Pokorsky said this.”
Solzhenitsen’s Harvard Commencement address, which I referred to in my earlier email, was in 1978. Here’s a link:
As a fellow priest and amateur political pundit, I say from this priest’s moral perspective [except for Pokorsky’s more personal political forecast, “Not to be outdone, here’s propaganda of my own”], Fr Pokorsky’s assessment is peerless.
What is evident is an immoral, irrational determination to provoke a nuclear confrontation against a nuclear superpower Russia, combined with one sided anti Russia propaganda, and just as determined refusal for a negotiated settlement.
And, additionally Pope Francis deserves credit for a somewhat similar judgment in the adamant refusal for a negotiated settlement.
Fr. Pokorsky covers most of the waterfront in his comprehensive recitation of propaganda. But, in his mention of the Bucharest Declaration, he declines to mention the Ukrainian interpretation that their surrender of nuclear weapons (in 2008) also entailed defense by NATO against foreign aggression (https://www.nato.int/cps/en/natolive/official_texts_8443.htm), an interpretation directly assured or strongly implied (sections 23,37,39,40,41 and 45).
But, maybe this Western commitment doesn’t fit under the heading of “propaganda.” And, as for provocation, some have suggested that Putin’s tank invasion of Ukraine (Feb. 22, 2022) was provoked by the United States’ very inept departure from Afghanistan only months earlier (Aug. 30, 2021). The blundering appearance of weakness invites aggression.
The plot thickens…
As yet another armchair observer, and with some military experience, might I propose two additional considerations, simply to demonstrate further the Byzantine era in which we now flounder?
FIRST, would the Iraq invasion have been so prolonged and costly if the designed military strategy had not been gutted the week before? My recollection is that a pincer attack was intended, with invasion forces advancing simultaneously from the south and north, but a week earlier Turkey’s President Erdogan abruptly withdrew permission to fly over Turkish airspace. (Internal and sectarian Islamic politics, surely.). Was it the logistical momentum from the south, and a decision to advance on schedule with only half a pincer, that then greatly prolonged the land battle, enabling very sectarian Islamic strife to erupt throughout Iraq and even the formation of a caliphate?
SECOND, nor can I document the following (unfavored information seems to appear only briefly on “the news”), but I recall an account that the Iraq scientific community was very afraid of Western concern over Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMB). And that these scientists, therefore, had actually dismantled the arsenal. It did not exist. But, being equally afraid of Hussein, they declined to inform him. Meanwhile, Hussein behaved as if he had a WMD arsenal, and this posturing colored the Western interpretation of fast-moving events and fragmented intelligence information.
What are the lessons to be learned? Would like to hear more, about these two possible and Byzantine ingredients, from CWR readers better qualified than I am.
Much opinion offered and at cross purposes? What will the prayer warriors supplications be?
1 Peter 5:7 Casting all your anxieties on him, because he cares for you.
Proverbs 18:21 Death and life are in the power of the tongue, and those who love it will eat its fruits.
Proverbs 15:1 A soft answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger.
Psalm 19:14 Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be acceptable in your sight, O Lord, my rock and my redeemer.
Colossians 3:23 Whatever you do, work heartily, as for the Lord and not for men,
1 Thessalonians 5:17 Pray without ceasing,
Romans 8:26 Likewise the Spirit helps us in our weakness. For we do not know what to pray for as we ought, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words.
Blessings of peace and discernment to one and all.
A man does not lose his civil rights upon priestly ordination; nor may he ever relinquish his prophetic duty as a priest. Nor is a priest ever just “Jerry” (except to his mother!); he never ceases to be “Father.” It was precisely that hellish dichotomy by which the Jesuit Robert Drinan sought to justify his undying support for abortion as a congressman.
Nor does a priest by virtue of his ordination have any particular competence to address political issues such as foreign policy, climate change, and immigration. He is free to offer his perspective, which should be informed by Catholic principles, but no layman is obligated to give it special weight simply because it is coming from a cleric. The Vatican and the USCCB routinely abuse their positions by implying that their often, especially in the Francis era, poorly reasoned political judgements constitute binding and official Church teaching.
That said, Father Pokorsky’s analysis of the Ukrainian war has been excellent.
Dear Fr Peter:
Blessings of peace and close communion with our Lord and saviour. Thank you for your service in His name.
If an ordained priest preaches contrary to the word of God and the position of the church, does the appellation of cleric still apply?
Certainly, one is entitled to ones views, yet fidelity to Christ is more important than popular sentiment of the day!
Once again, deep appreciation to you for proclaiming Christ crucified.
When Jesus said, “Man, who appointed Me judge or executor between you?” He refused to claim authority beyond his authority as Priest. The separation is also implicit in the “render unto Caesar” passage. Of course, Jesus is Lord of all, but in part, He’s telling his priests they must know their limitations as they invoke their authority in Jesus. Catholic principles, yes. In many cases, the application of those principles belongs to the laity. There is overlap: as when a political position directly violates a precept of the Decalogue.
I agree it can be tricky, as when Clemens August von Galen took on the Nazis. There is also a good deal of disagreement about the ministry of Father Coughlin. But years ago, the bishops had a better capacity for humility than recent documents suggest. If memory serves, an agency or group of bishops justified the American involvement in Vietnam using just war principles. But as I recall reading the document many years ago, I didn’t get the impression they were going beyond prudential speculation.
Papal and episcopal pronouncements on global warming, for example, are clearly beyond the competence of the clergy, although we all have a right to our opinions. Priests should carefully make the necessary distinctions to avoid confusing the laity. Many Catholics probably believe the many USCCB positions (e.g., on immigration) bind in conscience. They do not.
The “call me Jerry” schtick is a rhetorical device to draw attention to the separation of duties, not the opposition of principle with prudential judgment. When a priest expresses his political opinions — prudential judgments — those applications must not go contrary to religious or natural law principles, Drinan style. Opposing Catholic doctrine and prudential judgments is just plain dishonest.
In my previous pieces on Ukraine — which I didn’t repeat here — I limited my priestly authority to expressing just war principles. Again, my political views used the “Call me Jerry” schtick. The phrase is just a literary device to make the point stick. (Apparently, I failed.) The applications of those principles — as I recall the teaching of the Catechism — belong to our leaders — an example of the priest/laity division of duties.
Father Pokorsky inveighs against a priest for allegedly speaking for the church under the auspices of the K of C. And then proceeds to do the very same thing under the auspices of Catholic World Reports. The difference being? And his obsession with priestly authority just lays it on even thicker. And where in the Church’s teaching is there anything about priestly authority and making declarations about war? It seems Fr. Pokorsky’s less than subtle and repeated animus against Ukraine is guiding his thinking more than anything else. But invoking his “priestly authority” to promote his bias is unseemly and over the top hypocrisy.
You manage to miss Father Pokorsky’s point entirely. He explicitly states that he is offering his own personal evaluation of the geopolitical situation and not invoking his priestly authority. If only your typical bishop would show such humility when he addresses such matters.
When the bio photo is of him in a clerical collar and a by-line using the title Father, the author is invoking clerical authority … the whole point of a clerical collar and the title Father is to demonstrate clerical identity and authority. Sorry, Father Pokorsky had other options had he wished to be consistent with his own rule … he chose to state his opinions as a priest, and unmistakably so. He can’t claim he is speaking “not as a priest” and at the same time have all the priestly optics. It doesn’t work that way.
If he would have come to conclusions consistent with your own, would you be complaining?
Had Father Pokorsky pointed out that a treaty was agreed to in the early 90’s, wherein Ukraine relinquished all nuclear weapons to the Russian Federation, the latter promised respect for the territorial integrity of Ukraine, and NATO/US vowed to ensure that integrity … yes, I probably would have refrained from pointing out his violation of the rules he sets up for others. That said, Father Pokorsky has repeatedly underplayed Russia’s singular responsibility for this war, notwithstanding Ukraine’s alleged human rights violations and the perfidies of the industrial military complex. All of which I am against. But the fact remains that Russia invaded three times, annexing territory it had agreed would be off limits. The West’s failure to respond to the first invasion was a massive mistake, brought on by a weak and incompetent US president. Nonetheless, Putin, by his own admission, has ambitions for a greater Russian empire. Ukraine is only the first in his sights. The Baltic and Scandinavian nations have awakened to the Russian threat. And it is clear that Poland also understands. It’s high time for Putin apologists to hear the alarm even if they despise Ukrainians. It’s sickening to sense an accommodation of Putin’s outrageous and criminal behavior, albeit subtly stated and adorned with a clerical collar. The fact is we all of a stake in the outcome of this war, like it or not. And appeasing Putin is a non-starter in my books.
I don’t believe anyone here despises Ukraine, or Russia for that matter. However, there was a political and humanitarian problem following the 2014 coup/revolution. The West selfishly saw Ukraine as a means to contain Russia. Russia, too, saw Ukraine as a means to contain NATO, but I propose they had an additional interest. Russia noticed the targeting of Russian-ethnic Ukrainians by Ukrainian militan extremists who defied the then new fragile pro-west Ukrainian government and even had considerable power and influence. No one is without blame, but it’s a shame that westerners turned a blind eye to the suffering and hateful violence that plagued eastern Ukraine for the past 8 years. We must despise the sins. Russia’s final direct involvement was not “unprovoked.” Meanwhile the people of the region tear apart their love, lives and livelihoods in order to support political agendas that do not have their interests at the top, if at all. This is the tragedy. The Ukrainians are played like a pawn, then and now being asked to sacrifice because foreign and domestic political agendas made them forget their love, respect, and charity for one another. What is done is done. It looks like the separated regions of Ukraine, who voted to join Russia by annexation will not be part of Ukraine anymore. I pray the war ends soon and that the people find and earn respect for each other and themselves, find their place in the world, and begin healing and creating new bonds.
It is such a complex mess. I don’t wish to simply or reduce what is happening especially since the scale and details are too large to fully comprehend except by God; as such is human nature. I know there is more to be recognized, but at this time what is certain is that right now only peace is worth the price of additional sacrifice. More fighting will not buy any more wins. More support for the war will only prolong the war and suffering. I believe that Putin will not want the rest of Ukraine because it will put Russia in the same political problem as Ukraine had before this war, and that is a smoldering civil war driven by intolerance and hate due purely to political and cultural differences.
Peace be with you all. I know I have my opinions and others have theirs, but I hope that our prayers are united and that we make this world more like heaven and prepare ourselves for God’s kingdom.
Putin supporters keep crying for a “negotiated settlement”. What possible settlement could there be? Putin wants Ukraine to surrender it’s sovereignty and submit to Russia’s yoke; Ukraine wants to be free and for Russia to pound sand. Only the latter of these two is reasonable and justifiable. Even surrendering parts of Ukrainian territory to Russia would simply be rewarding Putin for his crimes against humanity.
The only choice for long term peace is no settlement, but instead a complete Russian defeat.
US, CANADA, UKRAINE AND RUSSIA 2022 DISPUTES – HISTORICAL BACKGROUND AND SEQUEL TO FR. PETER MORELLO’S COMMENTS: (1) US, Canada, Ukraine and Russia are Caucasian-European nations by ethnic majority and nominally Christian nations by religious majority; (2) Ukraine and Russia are also Slavic nations and neighbors with similar laws (limits) on abortion and LGBT; (3) Russia was US’ supporter in the American Revolution at great cost to herself – the island of Menorca; (4) Russia was US’ supporter in the Civil War when US’ opponents were Britain and France, prompting US Secretary of Navy, Gideon Welles to say “God bless the Russians”; (5) US (western Alaska) and Russia are neighbors, and Canada (northwestern Yukon) is closer to Russia than to Britain and France or Mexico; (6) US and Russia were never at war, not counting the Cold War or proxy wars, as compared, for example, with the “G7” nations; (7) US, Canada, NATO and Ukraine have disputes with Russia since the 1999 NATO bombing of Yugoslavia and militarization of countries neighboring Russia which was invaded over the centuries by NATO members Britain, France, Germany, (Mussolini’s) Italy, Romania, Lithuania-Poland, Turkey and by others including Sweden and the Mongols who inflicted on Ukraine and Russia death and destruction with hardly any parallels in world’s history – Germany also helped Lenin to impose psychopathic and deadly Marxism on Ukraine and Russia in 1917, while Ukraine and Russia, mostly by themselves, prevented Poland’s annihilation by Nazis and saved Europe from Nazi Germany and Mongols; (8) Ukraine and Russia have a border dispute, and a military conflict-war since the violations of the February 21, 2014 all-Ukrainian political agreement in Kiev and the violations of the 2014-2015 Minsk Peace Agreement signed by Ukraine, Russia, Germany and France (in the future, a joint venture by the Minsk signatories in securing Ukrainian segment of “Pan-European” gas pipeline might be a “win-win”) – by February 23, 2022 the war took some 15,000 lives and produced thousands of refugees as well as widespread material destruction in eastern Ukraine; on February 24, 2022 Russia escalated the war and invaded Ukraine resulting in many more deaths, refugees and material destruction across Ukraine; (9) US and Russia can destroy each other and the world with their nuclear weapons in an hour; (10) the irreplaceable way forward for resolving these issues are the eternally-valid biblical principles reflected in President Washington’s Farewell Address in which he called religion-morality the foundation of domestic well-being and peace with other nations and in President Lincoln’s last Inaugural Address “… with malice towards none, with charity for all … among ourselves and with all nations”, as well as in Pope Francis’ 2022 call for prayer and political talks centered on “human brotherhood instead of partisan interests”, all the while keeping in mind the 2022 Lenten message “Remember thou art dust and to dust thou shalt return” and “Repent and believe in the Gospel” which also includes “You shall not bear false witness against your neighbor” and the parable of “the speck and the log” – moral principles given to us by Jesus Christ, the Prince of Peace and the just Judge of the world, principles ignored at one’s great peril.
See also https://www.catholicworldreport.com/2022/03/14/expel-evil-spirit-of-war-from-ukraine-with-prayer-and-fasting-urges-catholic-leader & https://paxchristiusa.org/2022/02/24/pax-christi-usas-statement-on-russians-invasion-of-ukraine.
“Pope John Paul has condemned a possible war in Iraq, saying it could still be avoided and that it would be a defeat for humanity.” (That’s from a news report from January 13, 2003).
Pope John Paul II used Catholic Just War Doctrine to reach and announce his conclusion that the U.S. and U.K. did not have a moral right to invade Iraq and carry out a regime change.
I wish Father Jerry J. Pokorsky had mentioned John Paul’s condemnation of the planned “pre-emptive” war in Iraq. I wish Father Jerry J. Pokorsky would have showed how that condemnation fit into the theory of priestly pastoral practice that he articulated in this article.
I hope no one will mind if I make a guess: I think Father Jerry J. Pokorsky is reverting to pre-Vatican II pastoral practice regarding matters of war. For example, during World War II, the pope never issued any blanket condemnation of the wars of aggression undertaken by Nazi Germany and Imperial Japan. But I believe that, after certain statements of the Vatican II Council, the new Church pastoral practice is to do more than call for an end to armed conflict, but to go ahead and apply the Catholic Just War Doctrine, and if that analysis leads to one of the belligerant parties being identified as being in the wrong, then that conclusion should be announced to the world.
If Pope Pius XII had condemned Hitler’s wars of aggression, that might have helped bring the war in Europe to a end much quicker and with less loss of innocent life.
I think Pope John Paul II would have publicly and firmly condemned Hitler and the Nazi regime if he’d been pope from 1939-1945.
The Compendium of Catholic Social Doctrine states that a war of aggression is intrinsically immoral. The Church has no option of neutrality. Russia has been formally condemned by civil authority as an aggressor, no different judgement being supportable in reason.
Dear Rev Pokorsky, Greetings from a former parishioner at St Catherine’s – I am profoundly grateful for my catechesis there in the 1990s. A family member of mine worked for the Ukrainian Catholic Education Foundation (UCEF) for many years to help fund the first Catholic University founded in the former Soviet Block, located in Lviv. It has been interesting to juxtapose what I hear in liberal and conservative media about the Russian war in Ukraine compared to what I hear from those in the UCEF about the situation. I admit I haven’t read all of your articles about the Russian war on Ukraine yet. And now, after reading this article – I wonder if a way to cut through some of the “propaganda” is to “get the hay from the horse’s mouth” on the issues. I wonder if candid conversations with members of the Ukrainian Catholic Church hierarchy (such as Archbishop Borys Gudziak) and Roman Catholics in Russia might be useful. [But if you can’t have actual conversations with these individuals, here’s a few articles from the Ukrainian Catholic perspective: https://www.churchinneed.org/russia-has-ukrainian-greek-catholic-church-in-the-crosshairs/ and https://cruxnow.com/church-in-europe/2022/12/ukraine-catholics-warn-that-priests-arrested-by-russia-could-be-tortured and https://ukrarcheparchy.us/appeals/statement-of-the-ukrainian-catholic-bishops-of-the-us-in-response-to-the-attempted-russian-annexation-of-four-regions-of-ukraine%5D. Thanks, Di