The National Conference of Catholic Bishops, in their useful statement on U.S. policy in Central America, had two lessons to teach the White House.
First of all, they are right when they argue that there can be no military solution and that U.S. support of the Contras fighting the government of Nicaragua is "morally flawed."
But even more important, the bishops said what they said only after consulting the bishops of Central America, including Cardinal Miguel Obando y Bravo, archbishop of Managua, and Arturo Rivera y Damas, archbishop of San Salvador. This was not, like so many initiatives of the Reagan Administration, an arrogant assertion of Yankee authority on the Central Americans but, rather, a respectful response to the needs as seen by the Central Americans themselves.
Washington's preoccupation with Nicaragua, the bishops found, has two faults, converting Central Americans into "pawns in a superpower struggle" and failing to respond adequately to the human-rights violations, corruption, unemployment and other miseries that have brought the region "to the very brink of devastation."
The bishops gave unqualified support to the Aug. 7 Central American peace agreement, unlike the grudging support President Reagan gave.
"Let us turn our energies and resources in the region from supplying weapons of war to building instruments of peace," the bishops said.