WASHINGTON—“Bold steps” are necessary to counter the “unfortunate and continually rising tide of aggressive posturing” between the United States and Iran, said the chairman of the U.S. bishops’ Committee on International Justice and Peace in a letter to National Security Advisor Thomas E. Donilon. Such steps would include negotiations, inspections by the international community and allowing Iran to enrich uranium “convincingly short of weapons-grade potential as confirmed by verifiable inspections” and  “in compliance with international norms.

“A diplomatic solution is preferable to military action which could have unpredictable and dramatic repercussions for the region,” wrote Bishop Richard E. Pates of Des Moines, Iowa, December 18. “Such a solution would be highly advantageous to all and should be pursued with good faith and vigor. With this in mind, we urge immediate initiation of direct U.S.-Iran negotiations. The stakes are too high and the threats to human life too great to do less.”

Bishop Pates argued against a preventive military strike on Iran’s uranium enrichment facilities, saying such a move would “lead to broader armed conflict that would likely engulf much of the Middle East.” He added that the Catholic Church does not condone waging preventive war without clear proof that an attack is imminent.

Bishop Pates noted that last year Pope Benedict XVI called for “dialogue” and “joint solutions” regarding Iran.

The full text of the letter is available online here.