Valentine’s Day Homily on Nonviolence and Love of Enemies

Homily  Feb. 19, 2017             Loretto Motherhouse

 

We’ve just passed Valentine’s day, lots of little red hearts floating around, they all say I love you. But if you asked “What exactly IS this love you’re passing around?” it would be hard to explain. We’d think of Paul’s beautiful words to the Corinthians: “love is patient, love is kind…” We’d think of people who are dear to us. We’d allow that love can be a high, it can be gentle and tender, it can be sweet; or it can be “tough love”, it can be painful, difficult…well you know all of that.

Today’s readings, though, seem to put us in a different frame. I’d have liked to talk about something else, but they nearly force us to face into these words of Jesus. “Do not bear hatred in your heart,” “take no revenge and cherish no grudge,” “love your neighbor as yourself,” “love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, “give to the one who asks of you,” “be perfect  as God is perfect” – (according to one writer, this means “be all-inclusive in love as God is all-inclusive.” Jesus has broadened the border from the sweetly personal  and intimate, which is where we usually like to think of love, to something way larger. Something we might call political. Something critical not just to individual, private life, but to public, corporate life.

We’re learning that what we call “the Golden Rule” – “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you” is the single most foundational ethical message that  ALL religions – including Christianity – offer to humankind. But we’re conditioned by centuries of tit-for-tat, eye-for an-eye notions of justice. Most of us would have been taught that Jesus’s examples – turning the other cheek, giving your cloak as well as your coat, going the farther mile – advise us to give in to domination, to be passive, don’t fight back. Contemporary scholars, however, tell us that Jesus is recommending clever, subtle, peaceful, non-violent ways of resisting evil when we are faced with it. Jesus as he is dying, prays “Forgive them, for they know not what they do.” Jesus invites us to a largeness of heart that never gives up possibilities for change. He urges us to find creative ways of reaching out in love to enemies.

Jesus has moved Love as personal into the public, political arena. Jesus brings LOVE into the area of power. Who are our enemies? “unfriendly” nations, or, as many experience these days, our own national leaders. Does God expect me to LOVE persons whose intentions are completely incompatible with my own?

I believe Jesus would say Yes. Love them.

So maybe the hardest question we face now is: What does it mean for me to love THESE enemies?

Think how speedily – and how radically – our culture has changed in less than a year’s time. Numbing confusion, jumbling of truth and falsity, overridingf social conscience, condonng meanness and vulgarity. What we presumed was a national ethic has just sluffed off without our noticing. And as we change, we are creating the futures – personal, but also collective, evolutionary, even planetary futures.

I read that a senator recently raised a simple question: Have we become unable to talk to each other? That question is the emergence of hope. When our concern turns – not to despair but to re-pair, to healing; when we very consciously turn our hearts’ energies to love. Scientists have found that when HEARTS are aligned with each other, they generate a “coherent electromagnetic wave” in the local field that draws people together. In other words, with our love, we “feed” a field of love around us. What if we each made a real commitment to take time to ask this question: Am I, this day, open to loving the enemy? Can I find compassion in my heart that would enable me to think, perhaps,  of the background of each of those “enemies”, and imagine some intervention of love into their life that could change it, open it to peace, gentleness, love?

But might this time of confusion be destined to wake us from a cultural sleep? Some of us remember the Vietnam war, just some 50 years ago, remember the peace movement? I remember learning the word non-violence  – a word I’d heard only associated with a man in India. I remember the Berrigans, that I was shocked to learn that going to prison could be an act of courage, a prophetic act. We have come a distance. We have learned that love is a power that has political clout. Even the Vatican has begun to re-consider our allegiance to “just wars.” We know non-violence works. We know that humans hold the power of the life and death of the planet in our hands.

Maybe – just maybe – now we might be graced to love our enemies. Ethicists say that moral development depends in part on what they call a “choke reflex.” When the consequences of cultural patterns of behavior begin to be recognized as destructive, when our lifestyles are obviously damaging, we begin to “choke” on it. Now we know – I don’t need to list our country’s collective failures in areas of justice and peace. Maybe now we begin to say to one another: “I / we can’t let this continue.”

And that is the turning point: that is when HOPE begins to emerge – the moment we wake up, and turn to each other, awaken each other. When we re-member: care, acceptance, sharing. We begin to realize “we’re all in it together.” We begin to con-vert, con-verse, co-operate, col-laborate, com-municate – all the co’s.

“Love your neighbor as yourself.” “You ARE the temple of God…the holy presence of God.” Isn’t that, after all, the deepest purpose of gathering this morning in community, in communion – to share this meal whose whole intention is to energize, to deepen the power of Divine Love in us together?

May it be so.

 

TEXTS: Lev. 19:1-2, 17-18                                                                            Elaine Prevallet SL

Cor. 3:16-23

Mt. 38-48

Pax Christi USA’s statement opposing President Trump’s Executive Orders

Greetings,

Pax Christi USA deplores the three executive orders President Trump has recently signed. One is in favor of resurrecting the Dakota Access pipeline, another in favor of the Keystone XL pipeline, and another for advancing the deportation of immigrants and the construction of a wall on the US southern border. The common thread of these orders is the blatant disregard for the will of the people, care of the earth, and personhood and struggles of the migrant.

Our hearts are with the Standing Rock nation and all indigenous people who have worked so hard to protect the water and the land from the Dakota Access pipeline. The will of the people was heard when it came to changing the route of this pipeline just a few months ago, and now the people are being overlooked in the interest of corporate growth. We believe in people over profit. We believe in the care of the earth over the desire for oil. Mark Charles, a Navajo man and activist said, “No matter how much money you have. No matter how powerful you are. No matter what alternative facts you quote. The truth of the matter is – You CANNOT drink oil.” In the end, travesties against the earth will affect us all – even those who make much profit off pillaging the earth.

Our hearts are with our immigrant brothers and sisters living in fear of deportation and separation from their families. No one flees their countries of origin on a whim. We honor the multiplicity of reasons people migrate to the United States, many of which are poverty, gang violence, and terror. People are not the enemy, but that is the myth we are being told by President Trump. Building a wall is the visual symbol of these political lies. We do not believe this story, and we will not support this wall.

We need a country where people feel safe, welcomed, and know the only prerequisite for their rights is being human. All human beings, regardless of skin color or country of origin, should be able to rely on having safe water, a safe family, and a clean earth. President Trump’s executive orders set us on an immoral course we cannot endorse. Pax Christi USA is committed to the vision of justice that trumps hate and builds bridges instead of walls.

Peace of Christ,

Sr. Patricia Chappell

Executive Director

Pax Christi USA

Pope Francis Pledges Support of Church for Peacemaking through Active Nonviolence in World Day of Peace Message

MESSAGE OF HIS HOLINESS POPE
FRANCIS
FOR THE CELEBRATION OF THE
FIFTIETH WORLD DAY OF PEACE

1 JANUARY 2017

Nonviolence: a Style of Politics for Peace

1. At the beginning of this New Year, I offer heartfelt wishes of peace to the world’s peoples and nations, to heads of state and government, and to religious, civic and community leaders. I wish peace to every man, woman and child, and I pray that the image and likeness of God in each person will enable us to acknowledge one another as sacred gifts endowed with immense dignity. Especially in situations of conflict, let us respect this, our “deepest dignity”,[1] and make active nonviolence our way of life.

This is the fiftieth Message for the World Day of Peace. In the first, Blessed Pope Paul VI addressed all peoples, not simply Catholics, with utter clarity. “Peace is the only true direction of human progress – and not the tensions caused by ambitious nationalisms, nor conquests by violence, nor repressions which serve as mainstay for a false civil order”. He warned of “the danger of believing that international controversies cannot be resolved by the ways of reason, that is, by negotiations founded on law, justice, and equity, but only by means of deterrent and murderous forces.” Instead, citing the encyclical Pacem in Terris of his predecessor Saint John XXIII, he extolled “the sense and love of peace founded upon truth, justice, freedom and love”. [2] In the intervening fifty years, these words have lost none of their significance or urgency.

On this occasion, I would like to reflect on nonviolence as a style of politics for peace. I ask God to help all of us to cultivate nonviolence in our most personal thoughts and values. May charity and nonviolence govern how we treat each other as individuals, within society and in international life. When victims of violence are able to resist the temptation to retaliate, they become the most credible promotors of nonviolent peacemaking. In the most local and ordinary situations and in the international order, may nonviolence become the hallmark of our decisions, our relationships and our actions, and indeed of political life in all its forms.

A broken world

2. While the last century knew the devastation of two deadly World Wars, the threat of nuclear war and a great number of other conflicts, today, sadly, we find ourselves engaged in a horrifying world war fought piecemeal. It is not easy to know if our world is presently more or less violent than in the past, or to know whether modern means of communications and greater mobility have made us more aware of violence, or, on the other hand, increasingly inured to it.

In any case, we know that this “piecemeal” violence, of different kinds and levels, causes great suffering: wars in different countries and continents; terrorism, organized crime and unforeseen acts of violence; the abuses suffered by migrants and victims of human trafficking; and the devastation of the environment. Where does this lead? Can violence achieve any goal of lasting value? Or does it merely lead to retaliation and a cycle of deadly conflicts that benefit only a few “warlords”?

Violence is not the cure for our broken world. Countering violence with violence leads at best to forced migrations and enormous suffering, because vast amounts of resources are diverted to military ends and away from the everyday needs of young people, families experiencing hardship, the elderly, the infirm and the great majority of people in our world. At worst, it can lead to the death, physical and spiritual, of many people, if not of all.

The Good News

3. Jesus himself lived in violent times. Yet he taught that the true battlefield, where violence and peace meet, is the human heart: for “it is from within, from the human heart, that evil intentions come” (Mk 7:21). But Christ’s message in this regard offers a radically positive approach. He unfailingly preached God’s unconditional love, which welcomes and forgives. He taught his disciples to love their enemies (cf. Mt 5:44) and to turn the other cheek (cf. Mt 5:39). When he stopped her accusers from stoning the woman caught in adultery (cf. Jn 8:1-11), and when, on the night before he died, he told Peter to put away his sword (cf. Mt 26:52), Jesus marked out the path of nonviolence. He walked that path to the very end, to the cross, whereby he became our peace and put an end to hostility (cf. Eph 2:14-16). Whoever accepts the Good News of Jesus is able to acknowledge the violence within and be healed by God’s mercy, becoming in turn an instrument of reconciliation. In the words of Saint Francis of Assisi: “As you announce peace with your mouth, make sure that you have greater peace in your hearts”.[3]

To be true followers of Jesus today also includes embracing his teaching about nonviolence. As my predecessor Benedict XVI observed, that teaching “is realistic because it takes into account that in the world there is too much violence, too much injustice, and therefore that this situation cannot be overcome except by countering it with more love, with more goodness. This ‘more’ comes from God”.[4] He went on to stress that: “For Christians, nonviolence is not merely tactical behaviour but a person’s way of being, the attitude of one who is so convinced of God’s love and power that he or she is not afraid to tackle evil with the weapons of love and truth alone. Love of one’s enemy constitutes the nucleus of the ‘Christian revolution’”.[5] The Gospel command to love your enemies (cf. Lk 6:27) “is rightly considered the magna carta of Christian nonviolence. It does not consist in succumbing to evil…, but in responding to evil with good (cf. Rom 12:17-21), and thereby breaking the chain of injustice”.[6]

More powerful than violence

4. Nonviolence is sometimes taken to mean surrender, lack of involvement and passivity, but this is not the case. When Mother Teresa received the Nobel Peace Prize in 1979, she clearly stated her own message of active nonviolence: “We in our family don’t need bombs and guns, to destroy to bring peace – just get together, love one another… And we will be able to overcome all the evil that is in the world”.[7] For the force of arms is deceptive. “While weapons traffickers do their work, there are poor peacemakers who give their lives to help one person, then another and another and another”; for such peacemakers, Mother Teresa is “a symbol, an icon of our times”.[8] Last September, I had the great joy of proclaiming her a Saint. I praised her readiness to make herself available for everyone “through her welcome and defence of human life, those unborn and those abandoned and discarded… She bowed down before those who were spent, left to die on the side of the road, seeing in them their God-given dignity; she made her voice heard before the powers of this world, so that they might recognize their guilt for the crimes – the crimes! – of poverty they created”.[9] In response, her mission – and she stands for thousands, even millions of persons – was to reach out to the suffering, with generous dedication, touching and binding up every wounded body, healing every broken life.

The decisive and consistent practice of nonviolence has produced impressive results. The achievements of Mahatma Gandhi and Khan Abdul Ghaffar Khan in the liberation of India, and of Dr Martin Luther King Jr in combating racial discrimination will never be forgotten. Women in particular are often leaders of nonviolence, as for example, was Leymah Gbowee and the thousands of Liberian women, who organized pray-ins and nonviolent protest that resulted in high-level peace talks to end the second civil war in Liberia.

Nor can we forget the eventful decade that ended with the fall of Communist regimes in Europe. The Christian communities made their own contribution by their insistent prayer and courageous action. Particularly influential were the ministry and teaching of Saint John Paul II. Reflecting on the events of 1989 in his 1991 Encyclical Centesimus Annus, my predecessor highlighted the fact that momentous change in the lives of people, nations and states had come about “by means of peaceful protest, using only the weapons of truth and justice”.[10] This peaceful political transition was made possible in part “by the non-violent commitment of people who, while always refusing to yield to the force of power, succeeded time after time in finding effective ways of bearing witness to the truth”. Pope John Paul went on to say: “May people learn to fight for justice without violence, renouncing class struggle in their internal disputes and war in international ones”.[11]

The Church has been involved in nonviolent peacebuilding strategies in many countries, engaging even the most violent parties in efforts to build a just and lasting peace.

Such efforts on behalf of the victims of injustice and violence are not the legacy of the Catholic Church alone, but are typical of many religious traditions, for which “compassion and nonviolence are essential elements pointing to the way of life”.[12] I emphatically reaffirm that “no religion is terrorist”.[13] Violence profanes the name of God.[14] Let us never tire of repeating: “The name of God cannot be used to justify violence. Peace alone is holy. Peace alone is holy, not war!”[15]

The domestic roots of a politics of nonviolence

5. If violence has its source in the human heart, then it is fundamental that nonviolence be practised before all else within families. This is part of that joy of love which I described last March in my Exhortation Amoris Laetitia, in the wake of two years of reflection by the Church on marriage and the family. The family is the indispensable crucible in which spouses, parents and children, brothers and sisters, learn to communicate and to show generous concern for one another, and in which frictions and even conflicts have to be resolved not by force but by dialogue, respect, concern for the good of the other, mercy and forgiveness.[16] From within families, the joy of love spills out into the world and radiates to the whole of society.[17] An ethics of fraternity and peaceful coexistence between individuals and among peoples cannot be based on the logic of fear, violence and closed-mindedness, but on responsibility, respect and sincere dialogue. Hence, I plead for disarmament and for the prohibition and abolition of nuclear weapons: nuclear deterrence and the threat of mutual assured destruction are incapable of grounding such an ethics.[18] I plead with equal urgency for an end to domestic violence and to the abuse of women and children.

The Jubilee of Mercy that ended in November encouraged each one of us to look deeply within and to allow God’s mercy to enter there. The Jubilee taught us to realize how many and diverse are the individuals and social groups treated with indifference and subjected to injustice and violence. They too are part of our “family”; they too are our brothers and sisters. The politics of nonviolence have to begin in the home and then spread to the entire human family. “Saint Therese of Lisieux invites us to practise the little way of love, not to miss out on a kind word, a smile or any small gesture which sows peace and friendship. An integral ecology is also made up of simple daily gestures that break with the logic of violence, exploitation and selfishness”.[19]

My invitation

6. Peacebuilding through active nonviolence is the natural and necessary complement to the Church’s continuing efforts to limit the use of force by the application of moral norms; she does so by her participation in the work of international institutions and through the competent contribution made by so many Christians to the drafting of legislation at all levels. Jesus himself offers a “manual” for this strategy of peacemaking in the Sermon on the Mount. The eight Beatitudes (cf. Mt 5:3-10) provide a portrait of the person we could describe as blessed, good and authentic. Blessed are the meek, Jesus tells us, the merciful and the peacemakers, those who are pure in heart, and those who hunger and thirst for justice.

This is also a programme and a challenge for political and religious leaders, the heads of international institutions, and business and media executives: to apply the Beatitudes in the exercise of their respective responsibilities. It is a challenge to build up society, communities and businesses by acting as peacemakers. It is to show mercy by refusing to discard people, harm the environment, or seek to win at any cost. To do so requires “the willingness to face conflict head on, to resolve it and to make it a link in the chain of a new process”.[20] To act in this way means to choose solidarity as a way of making history and building friendship in society. Active nonviolence is a way of showing that unity is truly more powerful and more fruitful than conflict. Everything in the world is inter-connected.[21] Certainly differences can cause frictions. But let us face them constructively and non-violently, so that “tensions and oppositions can achieve a diversified and life-giving unity,” preserving “what is valid and useful on both sides”.[22]

I pledge the assistance of the Church in every effort to build peace through active and creative nonviolence. On 1 January 2017, the new Dicastery for Promoting Integral Human Development will begin its work. It will help the Church to promote in an ever more effective way “the inestimable goods of justice, peace, and the care of creation” and concern for “migrants, those in need, the sick, the excluded and marginalized, the imprisoned and the unemployed, as well as victims of armed conflict, natural disasters, and all forms of slavery and torture”.[23] Every such response, however modest, helps to build a world free of violence, the first step towards justice and peace.

In conclusion

7. As is traditional, I am signing this Message on 8 December, the Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception of the Blessed Virgin Mary. Mary is the Queen of Peace. At the birth of her Son, the angels gave glory to God and wished peace on earth to men and women of good will (cf. Luke 2:14). Let us pray for her guidance.

“All of us want peace. Many people build it day by day through small gestures and acts; many of them are suffering, yet patiently persevere in their efforts to be peacemakers”.[24] In 2017, may we dedicate ourselves prayerfully and actively to banishing violence from our hearts, words and deeds, and to becoming nonviolent people and to building nonviolent communities that care for our common home. “Nothing is impossible if we turn to God in prayer. Everyone can be an artisan of peace”.[25]

From the Vatican, 8 December 2016

Franciscus


[1] Apostolic Exhortation Evangelii Gaudium, 228.

[2] PAUL VI, Message for the First World Day of Peace, 1 January 1968.

[3] “The Legend of the Three Companions”, Fonti Francescane, No. 1469.

[4] BENEDICT XVI, Angelus, 18 February 2007.

[5] Ibid.

[6] Ibid.

[7] MOTHER TERESA, Nobel Lecture, 11 December 1979.

[8] Meditation, “The Road of Peace”, Chapel of the Domus Sanctae Marthae, 19 November 2015.

[9] Homily for the Canonization of Mother Teresa of Calcutta, 4 September 2016.

[10] No. 23.

[11] Ibid.

[12] Address to Representatives of Different Religions, 3 November 2016.

[13] Address to the Third World Meeting of Popular Movements, 5 November 2016.

[14] Cf. Address at the Interreligious Meeting with the Sheikh of the Muslims of the Caucasus and Representatives of Different Religious Communities, Baku, 2 October 2016.

[15]Address in Assisi, 20 October 2016.

[16] Cf. Post-Synodal Apostolic Exhortation Amoris Laetitia, 90-130.

[17] Cf. ibid., 133, 194, 234.

[18] Cf. Message for the Conference on the Humanitarian Impact of Nuclear Weapons, 7 December 2014.

[19] Encyclical Laudato Si’, 230.

[20] Apostolic Exhortation Evangelii Gaudium, 227.

[21] Cf. Encyclical Laudato Si’, 16, 117, 138.

[22] Apostolic Exhortation Evangelii Gaudium, 228.

[23] Apostolic Letter issued Motu Proprio instituting the Dicastery for Promoting Integral Human Development, 17 August 2016.

[24] Regina Coeli, Bethlehem, 25 May 2014.

[25]Appeal, Assisi, 20 September 2016.

Christmas Truce of 1914 Story Told through Songs and Letters

https://vimeo.com/194828603?utm_source=email&utm_medium=vimeo-cliptranscode-201504&utm_campaign=28749

The program took place at St. Susannah’s Church in Dedham and told of the spontaneous World War I Christmas Truce of 1914 that brought a temporary end to fighting in the trenches while soldiers crossed through no man’s land to celebrate Christmas together.  The story was brought alive through songs and letters written by soldiers and their families.  You can view the program in its entirety here.

Nonviolent Civil Disobedience

On Tuesday, Oct. 11, activists organized to shut down five pipelines transporting Canadian tar sands through Minnesota, Montana, North Dakota, and Washington.  They warned of the climate danger posed by the oil and pledged solidarity with activists fighting the Dakota Access Pipeline.  This was an action of civil disobedience, an example of people ready to risk imprisonment for the sake of future generations.

Pax Christi Massachusetts to Host 2016 Fall Assembly with Marie Dennis and Jonathan King

Marie DennieJonathan King

Pax Christi Massachusetts will be hosting its 2016 State Assembly entitled “Ending the Nuclear Nightmare! Faithful Witnesses and Non Violent Strategies!!” with presentations from Marie Dennie and Jonathan Alan King.  The Assembly will take place on Saturday, October 22nd at St. Susanna Parish, 262 Needham Street, Dedham MA from 9:00 am to 3:00 pm (with registration beginning at 8:30am).  See the below link for full details and a printable registration form (in PDF format)

PCMA 2016 ASSEMBLY

Vatican Conference on Nonviolence and Just Peace Report

Conference

Nonviolence and Just Peace:

Contributing to the Catholic Understanding of and Commitment to Nonviolence

Rome, April 11-13, 2016

For More Information visit: www.nonviolencejustpeace.net.  You can also endorse the statement here

 

An Appeal to the Catholic Church

 to Re-Commit to the Centrality of Gospel Nonviolence

 

As Christians committed to a more just and peaceful world we are called to take a clear stand for creative and active nonviolence and against all forms of violence. With this conviction, and in recognition of the Jubilee Year of Mercy declared by Pope Francis, people from many countries gathered at the Nonviolence and Just Peace Conference sponsored by the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace and Pax Christi International on April 11-13, 2016 in Rome.

 

Our assembly, people of God from Africa, the Americas, Asia, Europe, the Middle East, and Oceania included lay people, theologians, members of religious congregations, priests, and bishops. Many of us live in communities experiencing violence and oppression. All of us are practitioners of justice and peace. We are grateful for the message to our conference from Pope Francis: “your thoughts on revitalizing the tools of nonviolence, and of active nonviolence in particular, will be a needed and positive contribution”.

 

Looking at our world today

 

We live in a time of tremendous suffering, widespread trauma and fear linked to militarization, economic injustice, climate change, and a myriad of other specific forms of violence. In this context of normalized and systemic violence, those of us who stand in the Christian tradition are called to recognize the centrality of active nonviolence to the vision and message of Jesus; to the life and practice of the Catholic Church; and to our long-term vocation of healing and reconciling both people and the planet.

 

We rejoice in the rich concrete experiences of people engaged in work for peace around the world, many of whose stories we heard during this conference. Participants shared their experiences of courageous negotiations with armed actors in Uganda and Colombia; working to protect the Article 9, the peace clause in the Japanese Constitution; accompaniment in Palestine; and countrywide peace education in the Philippines. They illuminate the creativity and power of nonviolent practices in many different situations of potential or actual violent conflict. Recent academic research, in fact, has confirmed that nonviolent resistance strategies are twice as effective as violent ones.

 

The time has come for our Church to be a living witness and to invest far greater human and financial resources in promoting a spirituality and practice of active nonviolence and in forming and training our Catholic communities in effective nonviolent practices. In all of this, Jesus is our inspiration and model.

 

Jesus and nonviolence

 

In his own times, rife with structural violence, Jesus proclaimed a new, nonviolent order rooted in the unconditional love of God. Jesus called his disciples to love their enemies (Matthew 5: 44), which includes respecting the image of God in all persons; to offer no violent resistance to one who does evil (Matthew 5: 39); to become peacemakers; to forgive and repent; and to be abundantly merciful (Matthew 5-7). Jesus embodied nonviolence by actively resisting systemic dehumanization, as when he defied the Sabbath laws to heal the man with the withered hand (Mark 3: 1-6); when he confronted the powerful at the Temple and purified it (John 2: 13-22); when he peacefully but determinedly challenged the men accusing a woman of adultery (John 8: 1-11); when on the night before he died he asked Peter to put down his sword (Matthew 26: 52).

 

Neither passive nor weak, Jesus’ nonviolence was the power of love in action. In vision and deed, he is the revelation and embodiment of the Nonviolent God, a truth especially illuminated in the Cross and Resurrection. He calls us to develop the virtue of nonviolent peacemaking.

 

Clearly, the Word of God, the witness of Jesus, should never be used to justify violence, injustice or war. We confess that the people of God have betrayed this central message of the Gospel many times, participating in wars, persecution, oppression, exploitation, and discrimination.

 

We believe that there is no “just war”. Too often the “just war theory” has been used to endorse rather than prevent or limit war. Suggesting that a “just war” is possible also undermines the moral imperative to develop tools and capacities for nonviolent transformation of conflict.

 

We need a new framework that is consistent with Gospel nonviolence. A different path is clearly unfolding in recent Catholic social teaching. Pope John XXIII wrote that war is not a suitable way to restore rights; Pope Paul VI linked peace and development, and told the UN “no more war”; Pope John Paul II said that “war belongs to the tragic past, to history”; Pope Benedict XVI said that “loving the enemy is the nucleus of the Christian revolution”; and Pope Francis said “the true strength of the Christian is the power of truth and love, which leads to the renunciation of all violence. Faith and violence are incompatible”. He has also urged the “abolition of war”.

 

We propose that the Catholic Church develop and consider shifting to a Just Peace approach based on Gospel nonviolence. A Just Peace approach offers a vision and an ethic to build peace as well as to prevent, defuse, and to heal the damage of violent conflict. This ethic includes a commitment to human dignity and thriving relationships, with specific criteria, virtues, and practices to guide our actions. We recognize that peace requires justice and justice requires peacemaking.

 

Living Gospel Nonviolence and Just Peace

 

In that spirit we commit ourselves to furthering Catholic understanding and practice of active nonviolence on the road to just peace.  As would-be disciples of Jesus, challenged and inspired by stories of hope and courage in these days, we call on the Church we love to:

 

  • continue developing Catholic social teaching on nonviolence. In particular, we call on Pope Francis to share with the world an encyclical on nonviolence and Just Peace;
  • integrate Gospel nonviolence explicitly into the life, including the sacramental life, and work of the Church through dioceses, parishes, agencies, schools, universities, seminaries, religious orders, voluntary associations, and others;
  • promote nonviolent practices and strategies (e.g., nonviolent resistance, restorative justice, trauma healing, unarmed civilian protection, conflict transformation, and peacebuilding strategies);
  • initiate a global conversation on nonviolence within the Church, with people of other faiths, and with the larger world to respond to the monumental crises of our time with the vision and strategies of nonviolence and Just Peace;
  • no longer use or teach “just war theory”; continue advocating for the abolition of war and nuclear weapons;
  • lift up the prophetic voice of the church to challenge unjust world powers and to support and defend those nonviolent activists whose work for peace and justice put their lives at risk.

In every age, the Holy Spirit graces the Church with the wisdom to respond to the challenges of its time.  In response to what is a global epidemic of violence, which Pope Francis has labeled a “world war in installments”, we are being called to invoke, pray over, teach and take decisive action. With our communities and organizations, we look forward to continue collaborating with the Holy See and the global Church to advance Gospel nonviolence.

Pax Christi International, Rue du Progrès, 323, 1030 Brussels, Belgium. Phone: ++32 (0)2 502.55.50

 

Vatican to host first-ever conference to reevaluate just war theory, justifications for violence

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Rome – 

The Vatican will be hosting a first of its kind conference next week to reexamine the Catholic church’s long-held teachings on just war theory, bringing some 80 experts engaged in global nonviolent struggles to Rome with the aim of developing a new moral framework that rejects ethical justifications for war.Participants say the conference — to be cohosted by the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace and the global Catholic peace network Pax Christi International April 11-13 — may recommend displacing the centuries-old just war theory as the main Catholic response to violence.They also express hope that Pope Francis might take up their conversations by deciding to focus his next encyclical letter, the highest form of teaching for a pontiff, on issues of Catholic peacemaking.

Terrence Rynne, a U.S. theologian who will be attending the event, said he considers it “phenomenally important.”

“Coming out of it, Pope Francis might see his way clear to articulate a fresh vision of peacemaking to the church,” said Rynne, who helped found Marquette University’s Center for Peacemaking. “That would be wonderful.

Just war theory is a tradition that uses a series of criteria to evaluate whether use of violence can be considered morally justifiable. First referred to by fourth century bishop St. Augustine of Hippo, it was later articulated in depth by 13th century theologian St. Thomas Aquinas and is today outlined by four conditions in the formal Catechism of the Catholic Church.

A number of theologians have criticized continued use of the theory in modern times, due to the powerful capabilities of modern weapons and evidence of the effectiveness of nonviolent campaigns in response to unjust aggression.

The Catechism currently outlines as one criteria for moral justification of war that “the use of arms must not produce evils and disorders graver than the evil to be eliminated” and notes that “the power of modern means of destruction weighs very heavily in evaluating this condition.”

Conference organizers say in a note to participants about the April event that just war teaching “can no longer claim center stage as the Christian approach to war and peace.”

“After more than 1,500 years and repeated use of the just war criteria to sanction war rather than to prevent war, the Catholic Church, like many other Christian communities, is rereading the text of Jesus’ life and re-appropriating the Christian vocation of pro-active peacemaking,” they state.

“Emphasizing the need to work for a just peace, the Church is moving away from the acceptability of calling war ‘just,'” they continue. “While clear ethical criteria are necessary for addressing egregious attacks or threats in a violent world, moral theologians and ethicists should no longer refer to such criteria as the ‘just war theory,’ because that language undermines the moral imperative to develop tools and capacity for nonviolent conflict.”

As part of their goals for the conference, organizers state they seek a “new articulation of Catholic teaching on war and peace, including explicit rejection of ‘just war’ language.”

They state that they want “an alternative ethical framework for engaging acute conflict and atrocities by developing the themes and practices of nonviolent conflict transformation and just peace.”

April’s conference will be the first to be cohosted by the Vatican’s pontifical council and Pax Christi, an international Catholic coalition akin to Amnesty International that maintains separate national groups in many countries.

Started in 1945 by a French laywoman and a French bishop in the aftermath of the Second World War, Pax Christi has long sought to address the root causes of conflict and advocate for nonviolent solutions.

The conference is being organized around four sessions allowing participants to dialogue and share experiences with one another. The only scheduled talk at the event is to be given by Cardinal Peter Turkson, the head of the pontifical council.

The four sessions are given the themes: Experiences of Nonviolence, Jesus’ Way of Nonviolence, Nonviolence and Just Peace, and Moving Beyond Unending War.

Each of the sessions is being led by experts in the separate topic areas, including: Rose Marie Berger, an editor at Sojourners magazine and social justice activist; Fr. John Dear, a former Jesuit known internationally for his writings and civil disobedience actions; Maria Stephan, a senior policy fellow at the U.S. Institute of Peace; and Lisa Sowle Cahill, a theologian at Boston College.

Rynne said that the participants are hoping their discussions will allow them to draft some sort of document summarizing their sessions. The organizers’ note to participants says they hope to create an “action plan for promotion of Catholic teaching on war and peace, violence and nonviolence.”

Rynne said that participants are coming from many places, including: Chile, Sri Lanka, South Sudan, Tanzania, Kenya, Palestine and Burundi.

“It’s a dream that I’ve had for a long time that the church would embrace peacemaking as its central manta, and not have the just war theory be settled teaching the way it has been for so many centuries,” said the theologian.

“If people understood they had this powerful method of non-violent action that has been demonstrably proven again and again, we would begin to move away” from just war theory, he said.

[Joshua J. McElwee is NCR Vatican correspondent. His email address is jmcelwee@ncronline.org. Follow him on Twitter: @joshjmac.]

Pax Christi Massachusetts 2016 Retreat

Facing Violence Unafraid:

Building Jesus’ Nonviolent Alternatives

Retreat Leaders: Sr. Jane Morrissey and Philip Harak

Saturday, April 9, at St. Gabriel the Archangel Parish

151 Mendon St, Upton, MA 01568

Registration begins at 8:30 – Program 9:00 am to 3:00 pm

View The Flyer Here

Members at the State House

Pax Christi members (left to right) Irene Desharmais, Pat Ferrone, and Fr. Rocco Puopolo at the Good Friday Stations of the Cross at the statehouse.  The Stations of the Cross at the Statehouse is an annual event initiated by Agape and co-sponsored by Pax Christi MA, Sisters of St. Anne and the House of Peace.