Bishop Kevin Manning, Chairman of the Australian Catholic Social Justice Council, appealed to Federal Parliament today not to commit Australian troops to a military force in Iraq.

'Respect for life demands that Australia refuse to support a military attack on Iraq. I appeal to all members of Federal Parliament not to support the deployment of Australian military personnel or equipment against Iraq. I appeal to all of the people of Australia to pray for a peaceful resolution to the conflict in the Persian Gulf.

On nearly 50 occasions from August 1990 to March 1991 the Holy Father spoke out urging a non-violent resolution of the conflict in the Persian Gulf. In these interventions he constantly called for dialogue, negotiation, respect for the rights of people and of nations.

He emphasised the role of international law. He said that war was 'unworthy of humanity', an 'adventure without return'. He said that war could never adequately resolve the issues at stake and would only give rise to further hatred and injustice. He emphasised the risks of escalation and the unpredictable magnitude of the consequences. He found the indiscriminate effects of modern warfare morally unacceptable.

Subsequent events have proven that His Holiness John Paul II was right. Once again we must say no to war. It is not too late.

The path of negotiation has not yet been exhausted. In order to be morally acceptable, the use of force must be a last resort. While the government of the United States of America may have lost patience with negotiation, it is a serious duty on the part of the international community to find non-violent solutions. It would be premature and irresponsible for Australia to contribute to a threat to use force against Iraq in order to secure compliance with UN weapons inspection requirements.

To be morally legitimate, any use of force must be authorised by an appropriate authority. The United Nations Organisation, rather than any individual nation, would need to authorise any legitimate international police action in relation to the inspection of weapons sites in Iraq in this case.

Only grave and immediate danger to the common good can justify the use of force. The stockpiling of weapons by any nation does constitute a serious threat to the common good. Where is the evidence that there is immediate danger that these weapons are about to be unleashed? Where is the proof that there is no time left for negotiation?

To be morally acceptable, the use of force must have a reasonable expectation of success. The experience of the Gulf War militates against concluding that there is a reasonable expectation that another military intervention will achieve its intended outcomes.

The use of force must always be proportionate . Too often the use of force causes more harm than evil it sought to address. Whereas the military might speak of 'collateral damage', as Christian leaders Catholic Bishops must remind the international community that we are speaking of thousands of human persons whose lives are precious in the eyes of God. What can be proportionate to the loss of human life?

The Church's moral teaching has provided guidelines to limit the impact of war by insisting that all use of force must be able to discriminate between combatants and non-combatants. Indiscriminate killing is never legitimate under any circumstances. Did we not see the indiscriminate destruction of extensive areas during the the Gulf War? Why should we believe that the logic of war will not lead in this direction again?

I pray that God will guide our leaders in the decisions that are before them, and that we will be able to contribute not to military aggression, but the building of a just peace.'