The director of a U.S. Catholic archdiocese ministry wants to put President George W. Bush on trial for war crimes because of his Iraq policy.
In his most recent newsletter, Frank Fromherz, of the Peace and Justice Commission for the Portland Archdiocese in Oregon urged like-minded Catholics to back an ecumenical group’s request that “the International Criminal Court indict and prosecute our own president as a war criminal.”
Fromherz and the commission’s other two employees lost their jobs this week along with 15 others in a round of archdiocese layoffs attributed to budget cuts.
But Portland Archbishop John G. Vlazny apparently had warned Fromherz, who served as director for 12 years, that his antiwar activism was pushing the limits.
Spokesman Bud Bunce said the archdiocese has never addressed the issue of whether the president should be tried for war crimes.
“It doesn’t sound like something the archbishop would say,” Bunce told WorldNetDaily. “His main comments about the Iraqi situation have been to encourage Catholics to pray for a quick end to the war, and for those involved.”
Fromherz, 49, said in his April 2 dispatch: “We must be in solidarity with the social power of active nonviolence among the people who make their home along the Tigris and Euphrates. Our first and foremost challenge, to which we are a coalition of the willing, is to bring home our troops and, yes, join the Fellowship of Reconciliation (www.forusa.org) in requesting that the International Criminal Court indict and prosecute our own President as a war criminal. The Administration’s action is a moral outrage, not a matter of opinion.”
Fromherz said archdiocese officials told him Tuesday in a personnel session that he was fired because he violated his role as an agent for the archbishop, the Portland Oregonian reported.
The principle of agency means that an archdiocese director is an extension of the archbishop.
Fromherz said Tuesday in a message to supporters following his dismissal, “In my view, I have been a good agent of the Good News.”
“I shall continue to do so to the best of my ability,” he said. “I am sure that Archbishop Vlazny likewise is striving to live the Gospel to the best of his ability. I sincerely hope that all who speak for peace in this time of Superpower arrogance will find their voice and the courage of their convictions.”
Vlazny is a member of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, which had opposed the war, stating that it did not meet “just war” criteria. But since the conflict began, the bishops have called for a quick end and expressed hope that the “people of Iraq will soon enjoy a peace with freedom and justice.”
Under the auspices of the archdiocese, Fromherz has helped organize antiwar protests in Portland, including one planned for today.
In an April 3 note, Vlazny wrote Fromherz: “I’ve told you I don’t want the archdiocese sponsoring rallies like the one you describe for April 12. You know I won’t be there.”
Fromherz told the Oregonian that the decision to dismiss him, “which is quite abrupt, could send a chilling message to someone in a parish who doesn’t see eye-to-eye with the archbishop.”
Some Oregon Catholics, while expressing satisfaction with Fromherz’s removal, note that he has been allowed to espouse his ideas for the past dozen years.
Stephen Brady, who leads a Catholic watchdog group in Illinois, characterizes Catholic peace and justice ministries across the nation as being “for the most part politically driven and left-leaning.”
Noting the Jesuits’ influence in South America with Marxist groups, he sees a long history of Catholic ties to leftist movements.
“It’s a matter of history, there is no denying it,” said Brady, president of Roman Catholic Faithful. “It’s coming to the surface in the morally bankrupt condition of the hierarchy. Look at the bishops’ need [last year] to vote on whether a priest who rapes a child should be allowed to wear a collar after one incident.”
A Jesuit priest, Fr. John Dear, is a recent former executive director of the Fellowship of Reconciliation, the 85 year-old interfaith group that wants to try President Bush for war crimes.
The international pacifist organization was formed in an attempt to stop the outbreak of war in Europe in 1914. According to its history, in 1940, it also encouraged “nonviolent resistance to World War II.”