We are a little slow here in Europe – it’s not just the Canadians — so please forgive me for only just now having caught up with Michael Novak’s attempt to comfort the frightened children over at The Corner. The burden of his post is that we are not to be alarmed if Pope Benedict says, again, that the war in Iraq is a bad thing. Here’s why:

Popes Must Speak Out for Peace: That is what popes are intended to do — they are to represent Christ, the Prince of Peace, in a world that is and has always been a maelstrom of passions, conflict, and wars….

That is why in 2003 many Americans who believed that the war in Iraq was justified, also believed that it was very good for Pope John Paul II to oppose the war. The pope should not be, and should not even be allowed to seem to be, a proponent of war, especially of a war with so many complex religious tendrils, and with so many centuries of conflicted history. It was right and just for Pope John Paul II to oppose the war.

Oh, get out of here! If it was “right and just” and “very good” for JPII to oppose the war, why did Michael Novak scurry to the Vatican early in 2003, at the invitation of the US Ambassador to the Holy See, to try make Rome see things Washington’s way?

Know what I think? I think Novak is being cute, and that what we have here is another neocon attempt to rewrite history. Novak did not think in 2003 that the Pope was right to oppose the war. Nor does he think that Benedict is right now to oppose the war. But he does not want it to be thought that he is choosing country above religion, or religion above country.

Actually, neither choice is necessary, and he knows it. Catholics who disagree with a pope’s judgment on matters that are not de fide may — and perhaps should — say say so openly. There is no conflict of interest.

You cannot both believe that it was essential to go to war with Iraq and that the pope was right to oppose the war. It’s not rocket science. Novak should tell Benedict that he is wrong, and he should then pray that the scales be lifted from the Holy Father’s rather lovely eyes.

Incidentally, Pope Pius XII did not much care for war either, but he gets little credit for that. There is a feeling in some quarters that he should have taken a more positive stand in World War II, perhaps by personally directing the fire-bombing of Hamburg.